Can take the girl out of Automotive but can’t take the Automotive out of the girl…adieu my friends

So it’s been 5 months since leaving Nissan and joining Chevrolet. The experience has been colourful, wonderful and I have met a lot of great people.

A few days ago, I received a Sales call for the one and only Nissan sitting on our lot, a 2008 350z Roadster. It has been in the used car inventory just under a month and although I’d peered through the windows, I didn’t tempt myself by finding the keys and taking it for a spin.

With a customer coming in to have a look at the vehicle, I decided to check it out in advance.

The minute I opened the door, I was met with that leather smell and I was hooked all over again. I turned the car on and let it rev and with the unique exhaust tune filling the cabin was transported back in time; reliving all the wonderful memories of weekends spent cruising around Ontario in the Nissan Z.

The weekends that it took me through the Forks of the credit, along the Niagara escarpment and on many coffee runs to “far off” places like…Paris. Top down, music blaring. The downfall, my social circle had to become a party of one!

Today I delivered my last car and said adieu to an industry that has looked after me for exactly 9 years and 60 days. That’s precise.

It feels surreal but here I am, at last car-less with a pair of trusty boots, a bicycle and spotty transit!

What I do know, the way to my heart will always be that throaty sound coming from a Z…

Cruzing in a Chevrolet

This post is an article passed along from a friend that is now being shared with many friends!

One more reason to “come on down” and visit me at my digs in the
Chevy store 🙂 no pressure, I swear!

I do have one little story before you read the article.

Yesterday I had a girl come into the store shopping for a new compact Hatchback. She’d been to Mazda, Nissan and Honda to test-drive and check out their cars and stopped by Chevrolet only because it was convenient. She had no intention of buying a Chevrolet, but what the heck, she decided to come in and see what the advertising fuss was all about.

After our test drive and the great bi-weekly payments she was offered on the best equipped car she’d driven that day, she exclaimed “I never thought I’d like a Chevrolet!!”

Did she buy? Unfortunately not yet, but I have her number and you can bet what I’ll be doing this afternoon….calling her – don’t you just love sales people!

Why didn’t she buy yesterday? Pretending I can get into her head, she is struggling with the bow-tie, meaning the brand. Her heart is set on the product, but the brand is far away from who she wants to emulate. Aren’t customers the greatest?!

Now for the article:

Detroit Finds Small Is Beautiful as Compact Buyers Return | View Web
03/13/2012
Bloomberg News – Online
Keith Naughton

When the engine blew on his eight- year-old Toyota Matrix last year, Shane Wilson needed a new car fast and wanted something good on gas. He shopped the usual suspects: small Honda and Toyota models he’d owned in the past. Then he surprised himself by buying a Chevrolet Cruze.

“I thought American cars were pretty horrid and that they tended to fall apart,” said Wilson, 36, an accounts manager for the Internal Revenue Service in Seattle. “But the Cruze was fun to drive and the interior was light-years better than American cars used to be.”

Small cars, once the Achilles’ heel of U.S. automakers, are becoming a strength. Sales of General Motors Co.’s Chevy Cruze compact are up 10 percent this year, while Ford Motor Co.’s Focus compact sales have soared 90 percent. Last year, GM, Ford and Chrysler Group LLC’s share of the compact and subcompact market in the U.S. rose to a four-year high of 26 percent, from 20 percent in 2010, according to researcher LMC Automotive.

After losing a generation of car buyers to Japanese automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp., U.S.-based companies are building their comebacks on cars they once dismissed and discounted in favor of high-profit sport-utility vehicles. Small cars from Detroit are no longer utilitarian econoboxes. They have high style and high-tech features, such as voice-activated stereos, previously found only on bigger, more expensive models.

“Remember when smaller cars used to be cheap and cheerful?” Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally asked reporters March 6 at the Geneva motor show. “Now the consumers want the finest quality, the finest fuel efficiency, safety and design.”

Small-Car Foundation

While SUVs and pickups still have higher profit margins, Detroit has discovered that small cars are the foundation of a successful automaker. Since compacts are often a buyer’s first car, they represent the initial step in building brand loyalty. Toyota, Honda Motor Co. and other Japanese companies used small cars as their wedge into the U.S. market in the 1970s, while GM, Ford and Chrysler spent more development dollars on bigger models that burned more fuel.

The weakness of that strategy was exposed in 2008 when the average U.S. price of unleaded gasoline peaked at $4.11 a gallon. The lack of competitive compacts accelerated the collapse of U.S. automakers. Ford posted a record loss of $14.8 billion for 2008, and GM and Chrysler entered bankruptcy the following year.

“That was a defining moment for Detroit,” said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis at auto researcher Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, California. “That really pointed out the weaknesses in their small-car lineups and it hit home that they needed strong models throughout their portfolio.”

Fuel Prices

As U.S. fuel prices return to those levels, small-car sales are rising, too. Compacts and subcompacts will account for 19 percent of U.S. auto sales this year, up from 13 percent in 2005, LMC forecasts. Regular unleaded gasoline averaged $3.80 a gallon on March 11, up 8.3 percent from a month ago, according to AAA.

Without the Cruze and Sonic subcompact that have debuted over last two years, GM wouldn’t weather the rising gas prices as well, said Don Johnson, the automaker’s U.S. sales chief.

“We wouldn’t be in as good a shape as we are today,” Johnson told analysts and reporters on a March 6 conference call. “Cruze continues to be a more and more important part of our portfolio.”

U.S. automakers see rising fuel prices as an opportunity to poach car buyers from Toyota and Honda, which have just fully restocked showrooms after natural disasters in Asia cut inventory in 2011.

‘More Competitive Models’

“With more competitive models from the Detroit brands, they’re positioned to benefit from the rise in gas prices,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC in Troy, Michigan. “Who would have thought that?”

Some of Detroit’s competitors acknowledge the change.

“The steady increase in gas prices over the last few years has forced many competitors to finally get serious about cars again and, for the first time ever, some of them are bringing credible small cars to market,” John Mendel, executive vice president of U.S. sales for Honda, said in an e-mail.

As car buyers return to showrooms, they’re finding significantly better fuel economy in the new models from U.S. automakers. The Cruze, Ford Focus and Fiesta are each rated to get 40 miles (64 kilometers) per gallon or better in highway driving.

“As fuel prices went higher in February, so too did small car sales,” said Erich Merkle, sales analyst for Ford, where Focus sales more than doubled last month.

Small-Car Supply

Car dealer Gordon Stewart can’t keep a small car in stock at his four Chevrolet outlets and it reminds him of how models sell at his Toyota outlet.

“If I could get the inventory, I’d double my small-car sales tomorrow,” said Stewart, whose Gordon Stewart Chevrolet Inc. is based in Tampa, Florida, and who has Chevy stores in Georgia, Florida and Michigan and a Toyota showroom in Alabama. “People used to come in looking for the big SUV, but now I sell almost two cars for every truck. It’s much more like my Toyota store.”

The primary attribute of Chevy’s old Cavalier compact was its rock-bottom price, Stewart said. Now the Cruze and Sonic sell on style and performance.

“We sold the Cavalier in volume because of price,” Stewart said. “We’re selling the Cruze because the styling is so hot.”

Looking to Japanese

U.S. small cars still haven’t caught up to Japanese models in quality rankings. Japanese automakers held the top five spots last month in Consumer Reports automaker report cards, a measure of reliability, performance, comfort and utility. the publication selected Toyota models as the top pick in five of 10 categories, including family sedan (Camry hybrid) and green car (Prius).

“People still look to Japanese automakers when they shop for small cars,” said Edmunds’ Caldwell. “A Toyota Corolla is something they know.” The Corolla trails only Honda’s Civic as the top-selling compact in the U.S. so far this year.

Among U.S. automakers, Chrysler has the longest way to go to become competitive in small cars, Caldwell said. Next month, Chrysler begins producing the Dodge Dart compact, based on a design from Turin-based Fiat SpA (F), which controls the U.S. automaker. Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both companies, has called Chrysler’s current small car, the Dodge Caliber, an “abomination.”

Chrysler acknowledged it remains dependent on SUVs and light trucks in a March 6 regulatory filing.

Changing Equation

Even with its recent small-car gains, Chrysler’s sales are dominated by sport-utility vehicles, pickups and larger minivans, the company said in the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company delivered 552,000 SUVs in the U.S. last year compared with 354,000 cars. It sold 244,000 pickups, compared with 52,000 small cars.

GM, Ford and Chrysler are steadily changing that equation, said LMC’s Schuster. They also are finding ways to make money on small cars, which were loss leaders before they cut costs and added features to justify increased prices.

“They’re getting the recipe right,” Schuster said. “It’s a night-and-day difference between where Detroit is today and where they were back in 2008 when rising gas prices caught them off-guard.”

New Cruze owner Wilson says he has been surprised by the 34 mpg he’s averaging and that for $15,096, he got a base-model small car with satellite radio, a six-speed manual transmission and a black-and-cream interior that looks “rich.”

No one was more surprised, though, than Wilson’s friends when he pulled up for the first time in an American small car.

“They were like, ‘Really, a Chevy?’” Wilson said. “Then some of them had a chance to drive it and they were like, ‘OK, this is pretty decent. This is not what we’re used to.’”

Super Sonic, Why I like Driving the Sonic

Super Sonic, Why I like Driving the Sonic

Three months ago I started driving a Chevrolet Sonic. Coming from a Japanese manufacturer who’s main brand pillar is performance and building a driver’s car, getting into Chevrolet was giving me heart burn and to top it off a small car.

Selling 101 is believing in the product that you are promoting. Choosing to come work for Chevrolet immediately put me at a disadvantage to becoming a great salesperson. We know that Chevrolet ignored the long-term effects of brand and customer loyalty by building years worth of cheap, badly engineered vehicles and blowing them out of showroom’s with copious amounts of customer incentives.

Good thing my intent of joining Chevrolet was never to be the world’s greatest salesperson, nor was it to fall in love with a product that is struggling to find it’s place with Generation X, Y and Z.

Regardless of my reason’s behind choosing Chevrolet as a brand to work for, I had reservations driving one which I feel were well grounded being a) the brand’s negative perceived quality and b) driving a Small Car, where I would have to adjust losing the comforts most commonly found in full-sized, luxury vehicle, including interior features and most important, power.

After 3 months the Chevrolet Sonic, I have been pleasantly surprised by my growing adoration for the Sonic and here are the top 5 reason’s it has won my admiration:

1) It has a driver’s side armrest. This might sounds trivial but this is an item that as driver’s we don’t realize how important it is until it’s gone! Alot of entry-level vehicles lose the driver’s seat armrest in favour of a slight price advantage. How much would you pay for a driver’s seat armrest $50, $100, $200?

2) Comfortable seats. Another easy way to reduce cost in a vehicle without visually losing feature’s is using cheaper materials. Seats are a great way to reduce cost with less expensive cushioning. Again, it is something a driver might not necessarily notice until after delivery on that +600 km road trip to Montreal. With over 5,000 km’s, my buttock and back are happy campers and game for any road trip I deem appropriate.

3) Standard Bluetooth! The majority of customers coming into the store are baby boomers, is this brand specific or is the biggest consumer group evenly shopping all brands? In any event not all baby boomers seem to care about this standard feature, however, I feel Bluetooth is super important for late Gen X’ers and Gen Y, the target audience of Sonic. What is curious is the target audience is insisting on skipping the Entry-Level Sonic altogether and opting for the larger Chevrolet Cruze. From my perspective on the sales floor, the Entry-Level segment is overloaded with interesting product that the target customer’s aren’t interested in buying. Gen X and Y reasoning on moving up to the Cruze, well they are thinking about children in 2 years and want something that will fit them for 5 years. So who is coming into the store to talk about Sonic? Baby boomers who have grandchildren to cart around three times a month. Again, is this the core customer’s of Chevrolet just coming out for a tour of the dealership or is this a trend for all Entry-Level competitors?

4) Zippy when I need it to be. Sonic does a great job of merging into traffic on the 401, 427, QEW and 403, to name a few major highways. A few years ago, I met a rather handsome fellow (his handsomeness is irrelevant to the story, but decided it was worthy to note) who had a little sticker under the speedometer of his car that said “SLOW DOWN”. I found it amusing and sweet and if you know me, I could hardly contain my laughter not because I thought him funny, but rather it was so ingenious! We would get into heated arguments about speeding and since he’d had enough tickets to prompt a “SLOW DOWN” reminder on his dashboard, I didn’t have much of an argument. I vote that Sonic come standard with a factory installed “SLOW DOWN” sticker, just as a friendly reminder!

5) Instrument panel and Centre console. I love the interior styling and ease of use of the controls on the Instrument panel and Centre console. I am equally happy that Chevrolet has taken queues from import brands where fit and finish is an engineering consideration. I particularly like the “motorcycle” inspired interior design and the steering wheel controls with their soft rubber grips that make it easy to navigate through the menu’s.

**I have to add one more item to my list of things I love about the Sonic, Remote Start! What a great feature and it has a pretty impressive range (for me anyhow). When I step out of my elevator in the parking garage and I am still a 3 minutes walk to my car, I press my remote start and it turns on! Love it!

***One more item, this is standard on all Chevrolet’s, the Auto On/Off Headlights that sense when to turn On/Off the night headlights! Its so great not having to turn off the lights when I park the car, and equally, something I do not have to think about when it starts getting dust, they magically turn on 🙂

Similar to a relationship, after all the newness and excitement wears off, it’s important to have the must-have, important features – they make all the difference! Regardless that I sell for Chevrolet, I happily promote Sonic with fevor because I believe in the product.

What was your favourite car and more important, top 5 must have features?

Women in Business

Inspiring story of two sisters, running Chevrolet`s oldest family run business in its sixth generation.

The story begins in 1847, before the first American car manufacturing company existed in 1893, when Wesley Hare started building carriages. By 1912, his son had evolved the family business into mostly building automobile’s for a handful of brands including Cadillac and eventually becoming an exclusive Chevrolet franchise in 1921.

Farewell and Hello

The time came to say farewell, since joining Nissan Canada in 2003 time has flown by – 8 years feels like a moment in time.

I thank everyone I met and worked with for making my time at Nissan special and memorable.

My new chapter starts tomorrow, one more link in a chain that I expect to be filled with more adventure stories!