Editor’s Notebook: Imports Make Headlines

Editor’s Notebook: Imports Make Headlines

You may have noticed that imports have been in the news a lot lately. Last month, Automotive News reported that “foreign-based” auto brands surpassed domestic brands in U.S. retail sales. Through May, 52.9% of new vehicles registered by purchasers were import brands, up from 49.0% a year earlier. Big news!

If this trend continues, it will be the first year that import brands generate the majority of U.S. retail sales. Among import brands, the six biggest gainers were Toyota, Volkswagen, Land Rover, Porsche, Mercedes and Suzuki.

Speaking of Toyota, the automaker is edging in on General Motors’ 80-year reign as the world’s biggest automaker. In the first half of this year, Toyota’s sales grew 7.1% to 4.36 million vehicles. Meanwhile, GM’s sales fell 2.3% to 4.6 million. GM’s mere 240,000-unit advantage was more than double 12 months ago.

For the month of July, it was also reported that Toyota Motor Corp. posted a 12% sales gain over year-ago figures, and took the country’s No. 2 auto sales spot (away from Ford Motor Co.).

Meanwhile, Honda Motor Co., with a 6% sales increase, inched past the Chrysler Group to take over the No. 3 spot in the U.S. market (GM is still hanging on to the No. 1 spot). These gains coincided with a 35% plunge in July sales at Ford, a 34% drop in sales at Chrysler and a 22% sales slide for GM.

As vehicle buyers look for ways to beat the $3-a-gallon pump prices, fuel-efficient vehicles will continue to gain popularity and buoy sales for automakers with hybrids and compact vehicles that offer better fuel economy in their lineup. Toyota, with its Prius gasoline-electric hybrid and Corolla, Yaris and Scion models, is in a good position to continue to gobble up market share by appealing to fuel-conscious drivers.

What does all of this mean to your business? With import vehicle sales continuing their upward climb, there will be lots of imports on the roads for years to come. The influx of new vehicles in the market will lay the foundation for plentiful aftermarket service opportunities as these vehicles require service, repairs and preventive maintenance. You need to get prepared now, if you want to increase your market share among competitive repair shops.

  • Get up to speed on hybrid vehicles by acquiring the necessary training.

  • Make sure your techs have the proper tools and equipment to achieve expert, efficient vehicle repairs.

  • Actively advertise your shop’s expertise and services to attract new customers.

  • Better communicate with customers to reinforce your commitment to vehicle service excellence and to ensure loyal, repeat customers.

  • Sell and promote preventive maintenance to ensure customer satisfaction through vehicle dependability, safety and preservation.

There certainly will be a tremendous number of vehicles (and loyal customers) that will benefit from the fruits of your labor.

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