May 26, 2018

Car Sales Keep Up Their Streak

DETROIT – Automakers reported that March sales of new cars and trucks were the highest monthly total in five years, providing more evidence of a sustained turnaround in the industry.

An estimated 1.5 million vehicles were sold during the month, about a 4 percent improvement over last year, as a strengthening housing market and low interest rates spurred consumers and businesses to replace aging models.

It was the best monthly performance since 2007, executive and analysts said, and reinforced their sales forecasts for the full year at more than 15 million vehicles.

“Even though consumer confidence has been up and down this year, there are ‘wealth effects’ that are making Americans feel comfortable finally buying new cars they’ve been waiting for,” said Lacey Plache, an economist for the auto-research site

General Motors, the largest American automaker, said it sold 245,000 new vehicles during March, a 6.4-percent increase over the same period last year.

While sales of its biggest brand, Chevrolet, were flat, G.M. said its Cadillac brand increased by almost 50 percent and Buick sales rose 37 percent.

G.M. benefited from the steadily growing demand from the construction industry for new pickup trucks. Sales of the Chevrolet Silverado increased 8 percent, and the company expects even better results when it begins delivering a newer model truck to showrooms over the next few months.

“Trucks have improved in lockstep with the housing market,” said Kurt McNeil, head of the company’s United States sales operations.

The Ford Motor Company said it sold 236,000 new vehicles during the month, which was a 5.7-percent improvement over a year go and the company’s best monthly performance since May 2007.

The results were driven by the heart of the Ford lineup. Sales of the midsize Fusion sedan topped 30,000 for the first time, and demand for the Escape SUV was up 27 percent.

Ford also posted a 16-percent gain in sales of its F-series pickup, the best-selling vehicle in America. “Full-size pickup demand continues to gaining momentum, outperforming the industry for the third consecutive month,” said Ken Czubay, Ford’s United States marketing and sales chief.

Chrysler sold 171,000 vehicles in March. Its 5-percent improvement over a year ago was smaller than in some recent months, and underscored the company’s need to keep refreshing its showrooms with new models.

The company said sales of its Ram pickup truck increased 25 percent over the previous year, and the new Dodge Dart compact car had its best month since being introduced last summer.

Chrysler is in the midst of revamping its cornerstone Jeep brand with a new version of the Cherokee SUV and other models. Analysts said broadening the Jeep lineup is crucial to Chrysler’s chances of returning to the double-digit monthly growth it had in 2012.

“Chrysler’s March sales story is one of old and new,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst with “Jeep desperately needs the Cherokee to get back into positive territory.”

Japanese auto companies are expected to report increases in March as well. Both Toyota and Honda are back at full strength from lingering inventory problems caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and are aggressively updating their showrooms with new products.

All the automakers are advertising heavily to bolster spring sales. One of the busiest has been Volkswagen, the German automaker that is rapidly expanding its American operations.

Volkswagen said it sold 37,000 vehicles during the month, a 3.1-percent increase from a year ago. The company said it was its best March since 1973, when it was one of the only import brands available in the United States.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 2, 2013

A previous version of this article misspelled the surname of G.M.’s United States sales chief. He is Alan Batey, not Batley.

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Advertising: Google Upgrades Campaign for Mobile Marketing

The 2013 version of the initiative is to be announced on Thursday as a gaggle of Googlers gets ready for the annual South by Southwest Interactive Conference and Festival in Austin, Tex.

The initiative last year, known as Project Re:Brief, was meant to help change minds outside Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley about the role that technology in general, and Google products in particular, could play in mainstream brand marketing.

The focus of Project Re:Brief — as in rethinking a creative brief — was to reimagine for contemporary consumers four classic commercials and campaigns from the “Mad Men” era, for Alka-Seltzer, Avis, Coca-Cola and Volvo.

This time, the brands taking part are Adidas, Burberry and Volkswagen, with Volkswagen of America and its creative agency, Deutsch L.A., going first.

Another change for 2013 is a renaming of the initiative: Art, Copy and Code, riffing on the ad industry phrase “art and copy,” evoking the two components of most ads; the organization known as the One Club for Art and Copy; and a movie, “Art and Copy,” produced by the organization.

Perhaps the biggest change for Version 2.0 is to shift the time frame. The work developed last year for Project Re:Brief was based on ads from the 1960s and 1970s. The work being developed for Adidas, Burberry and Volkswagen will be based on current ads.

“We had a great experience last year when we went back to the iconic campaigns, people saying, ‘Wow, you can build brands online; digital isn’t just for click-here, direct-response ads,’ ” said Jim Lecinski, vice president for United States sales and service at Google.

“And we were pleased and proud of recognition in the industry,” he added, like the initiative for Coca-Cola’s winning the first-ever grand prix for mobile advertising at the 59th Cannes Lions international advertising festival in June.

This time, the goal is to see “what we could do for a live, real, of-the-moment brief for a brand,” Mr. Lecinski said, and “to get something into the marketplace right now.”

For Volkswagen, the basis of what is being created is the current brand positioning campaign that associates Volkswagen with what Esso gasoline described decades ago as “Happy motoring” — in other words, said Winston Binch, partner and chief digital officer at Deutsch L.A., “bringing enjoyment, fun, to every drive.”

Examples of how Deutsch L.A. has been expressing that recently for Volkswagen include a commercial last fall that carried the theme “It’s not the miles, it’s how you live them” and a spot that ran during Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 that carried the theme “Get in. Get happy.”

For Art, Copy and Code, Volkswagen of America will offer drivers a mobile app and Web service called Volkswagen Smileage, billed as fostering a social driving experience. Drivers who use the new Google Plus Sign-In program from the Google Plus social networking tool can share their smile-inducing driving experiences with friends and family.

“Brands need to act more and more like inventors,” Mr. Binch said, and embrace “productized marketing” like the Nike Plus Fuel Band and the American Express Open Forum.

(Social driving may be another example of how social media are remaking marketing; there are also, for instance, social shopping and social sampling.)

“We have a passionate owner base, and we’re going to reach out to them first with the beta version” of Volkswagen Smileage, said Justin Osborne, general manager for advertising and marketing communication at Volkswagen of America in Herndon, Va. After that, “we’re going to roll it out to a larger audience,” Mr. Osborne said, offering it to all drivers, not only Volkswagen owners.

“I want someone who owns a Corolla to have this app in their car, to get a little piece of Volkswagen in their car,” he added.

Google “reached out to us to see if we’d be interested in the second version” of Project Re:Brief, Mr. Osborne said, “and it was a bit of a beauty pageant; we had to write a brief” explaining why Volkswagen ought to take part.

“To be honest, we didn’t know what we were going for” at first, he added, but after brainstorming sessions there were “aha moments” that proved “the Google people live up to their reputation: they’re wicked smart.”

Also working on Volkswagen Smileage with Google, Volkswagen of America and Deutsch L.A. — part of the Deutsch unit of Lowe Partners, owned by the Interpublic Group of Companies — is Grow, formerly Grow Interactive, a digital agency in Norfolk, Va., that worked with Google on Project Re:Brief.

Grow will be Google’s “creative and technology partner” for all the Art, Copy and Code initiatives, said Drew Ungvarsky, chief executive and creative director at Grow.

“I think this is a welcome progression from last year,” he added. “What we did was received incredibly well, but this is on a broader scale, with ideas that are ready for today’s market.”

Aman Govil, team lead for the advertising arts team at Google, who also worked on Project Re:Brief, said the efforts for Adidas and Burberry are “still in the early creative process.”

“We’re looking at how we can innovate with them,” he added, also “looking at more than ads, using social media, apps, Google Chrome, Android, Google Plus, to help brands build with digital.”

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Automakers End 2012 With Sales at 5-Year High

Sales of new cars and trucks increased 9 percent in December, a gain that put total sales for 2012 at about 14.5 million vehicles — the industry’s best performance in five years, according to the research firm Autodata.

That represents a 13 percent increase over 2011, and raises expectations that demand will continue to rise as more Americans need to replace their aging vehicles with new models.

Auto executives forecast that the United States market would grow to at least 15.5 million this year and possibly higher, if housing starts and other economic factors continue to improve.

“For the industry, 2012 was mission accomplished,” said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with the auto research site “Companies are hitting their sales goals, and they are doing it with fewer incentives.”

Much of the growth has been concentrated in the comebacks of Toyota and Honda from supply chain disruptions caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan two years ago. And while automakers like Chrysler and Volkswagen posted hefty increases throughout the year, the two biggest American companies, General Motors and Ford Motor, lagged the overall gains.

December was a microcosm of the year’s results, as G.M. and Ford on Thursday reported smaller sales increases than those of their chief domestic, European and Asian rivals. G.M. said sales in December increased 4.9 percent, compared with the same month a year ago, primarily because of new products like the Cadillac ATS sedan and higher incentives on its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.

The company had been losing ground in the high-profit pickup segment until it added discounts to the Silverado, which posted a 6.1 percent sales increase in December, and the Sierra, which was up 13.4 percent. For the year, G.M. sold 2.59 million vehicles, an increase of 3.7 percent from 2011.

G.M.’s head of United States sales, Kurt McNeil, said the company expected significant growth to about 15.5 million vehicles industrywide this year. He noted that Tuesday’s pact on the fiscal crisis in Washington removed potential concerns for consumers shopping for new vehicles.

“We are especially pleased that the politicians on both sides of the aisle in Washington were able to compromise,” Mr. McNeil said in a conference call with analysts on Thursday. “The short-term crisis has passed.”

Ford reported a slight sales increase of 1.6 percent in December, as safety recalls for its new Escape S.U.V. and Fusion sedan depressed its overall results. Ford said that sales of the Fusion dropped 10.8 percent during the month, and Escape sales slid 21.3 percent. The company has been plagued with multiple recalls on engines and other parts on the new vehicles, which are usually among its strongest sellers.

The drop-off was mitigated by strong results for Ford’s two smallest cars, the Focus, which increased in sales by 58.3 percent, and the Fiesta, which was up by 52.8 percent.

For all of 2012, Ford’s United States sales increased 4.7 percent, to 2.24 million vehicles. Ken Czubay, head of Ford’s United States sales and marketing, said the company’s small-car sales were its best in more than a decade.

Ford predicted that industry sales could possibly reach 16 million vehicles in 2013, as more consumers trade in older models and buy new, more fuel-efficient ones. That peak hasn’t been reached since sales of 16.1 million in 2007.

Chrysler, the smallest of the Detroit companies, was the star performer in December, with a 10.4 percent increase.

The company’s new compact car, the Dodge Dart, gained traction with sales of 6,100 — its highest monthly total since it was introduced last summer. Much of Chrysler’s lineup — ranging from Jeep S.U.V.’s to the tiny Fiat 500 — posted sales records for the month of December. For the year, Chrysler said it sold 1.65 million vehicles, a 20.6 percent increase from 2011.

Toyota reported a 9 percent sales gain in December, which was one of the weaker months in its turnaround in 2012. The company said it sold 2.08 million vehicles in the United States for the full year, which was a 26.6 percent gain over 2011. Its three top-selling vehicles — the Corolla compact car, Camry sedan and Prius gas-electric hybrid — accounted for nearly half of its overall sales for the year.

Analysts said Toyota appeared poised to outperform the overall market this year as well.

“Fresh products like the all-new RAV4 S.U.V. should help keep the momentum going,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with the car research site

Honda ended the year on a high note, reporting a 26.2 percent jump in sales in December in the United States. Its bellwether cars, the Accord and Civic, led the way, each with increases of more than 60 percent. For the year, Honda said it sold 1.14 million vehicles, a 24 percent gain from 2011.

Other automakers had mixed results. Nissan said its December sales dropped 1.6 percent, but the company ended 2012 with a 9.5 percent gain for the year.

Volkswagen closed the year with another banner month. The German automaker reported a 29.9 percent gain for December and a 30.6 percent increase for the full year.

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Car Sales Improved in August; G.M. Up 18%

General Motors said its sales in the United States rose 18 percent from August 2010, and the Ford Motor Company reported an 11.2 percent increase.

Chrysler said sales were up 31 percent. That included a 58 percent increase for its Jeep sport utility vehicles.

August marked the 17th consecutive month of year-over-year increases for Chrysler, whose recovery is gathering momentum after being written off by many critics after its 2009 bankruptcy.

Nissan reported a 19.2 percent gain, and Volkswagen said sales rose 10.4 percent.

G.M. said it remains confident in its full-year forecast for the entire industry of at least 13 million sales, even as many analysts have chopped their projections recently.

“Consumers are being cautious, and appropriately so, but they are not retrenching,” said Don Johnson, G.M.’s vice president of United States sales operations, on a conference call. “All indications to us are that the industry is going to slowly grow for the rest of this year.”

Other carmakers were scheduled to report sales later Thursday. Analysts were forecasting another month of disappointing numbers from Toyota and Honda, whose inventories were decimated by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March. Nissan, which was able to return to normal production levels much faster, ran ads last month juxtaposing the abundance of inventory at its dealerships with bare Honda showrooms.

August began with uncertainty caused by the debt-ceiling debate in Washington, and ended with much of the East Coast focused more on the weather than on buying a new car. In addition, some shoppers probably stayed on the sidelines in the hope of getting a good deal during the upcoming holiday weekend, said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J. D. Power and Associates.

“We did see things get a little bit weaker as we got into the second half of the month,” Mr. Schuster said. “Many buyers are still conditioned to the strong Labor Day sales, so we could have seen some buyers pull back their purchase decisions waiting for some deals.”

From January through July, total industry sales rose 10.9 percent. Excluding the 7.1 percent decline at Toyota and 2.6 percent decline at Honda, rest of the industry was up 16.6 percent.

“The reality on the ground is not as bad as the market has inferred from the weakness in economic data,” Peter Nesvold, an analyst with Jefferies and Company, wrote in a report this week. “September will be the acid test of underlying demand for the rest of the year as headwinds from tight inventory and the debt ceiling debacle dissipate, in our view.”

Nissan pulled further ahead of G.M. last month in the battle between the Leaf electric car and the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. Leaf sales for the month were 1,362, more than quadruple the Volt’s 302. G.M. halted production of the Volt this summer to retool in preparation for a large increase in production and said it is still working to build inventory of the car enough to meet demand. It has promised significantly higher Volt sales in the months ahead.

“Every unit that we ship right now is pre-sold,” said Alan Batey, the head of Chevrolet sales in the United States. “It’s essentially a magnet for us. It’s doing a wonderful job for the brand.”

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G.M. Sales in U.S. Rose 27% in April

G.M. said Tuesday that consumers migrated to cars like the Chevrolet Cruze to cope with higher gas prices.

“Rising fuel prices have led many to re-think their vehicle choice,” said Don Johnson, G.M.’s vice president for United States sales.

The company is the first to report its April sales — Ford, Toyota, Chrysler and other carmakers will report as the day wears on. The overall industry is expected to report slightly higher sales, as the market continues its slow recovery from the recession-era sales levels in recent years. Analysts forecast an annual selling rate above 13 million vehicles for the month.

G.M. has lagged some rivals, like the Ford Motor Company, in producing smaller cars. But the nation’s biggest automaker has accelerated its changeover from trucks to cars since emerging from bankruptcy two years ago.

In April, G.M. said its passenger car sales rose 50 percent from the previous April. The Cruze had its best month ever, and the company also reported record sales for its Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain compact cross-over vehicles.

Sales of pickup trucks, however, showed signs of slowing down after steady increases earlier in the year. G.M. said its full-size pickup sales climbed just 2 percent during April. Sales of the large trucks have surged 26 percent overall since the beginning of the year.

Mr. Johnson said G.M. was sticking with its full-year industry sales projections of 13 million to 13.5 million vehicles. Some of the recovery was being driven by consumers returning to the market to replace older-model vehicles. “Pent-up demand had been building in the industry for the last few years,” he said.

And most of the surge is coming in the small-car segment. During April, compact-car sales accounted for 18 percent of the market, making it the largest single segment.

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Earnings Rise for Procter and Colgate

Procter Gamble lowered the high end of its profit forecast for the year after posting a profit that fell a penny short of analysts’ average estimate. Colgate said that rising costs hurt its profit margins in its last quarter but that the income still met forecasts.

Procter Gamble, the world’s largest maker of household goods, now expects its costs to rise about three times as much at it had at the start of the year, with increases in diesel, resin and other materials, the chief financial officer, Jon R. Moeller, said.

Procter has implemented or announced increases across brands representing about 50 percent of United States sales but is not raising prices as much as it did in 2008, the chief executive, Robert A. McDonald, said.

Procter Gamble earned $2.87 billion, or 96 cents a share, up from $2.59 billion, or 83 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue in the period, which ended March 31 and was the third quarter of the company’s fiscal year, rose to $20.23 billion from $19.18 billion.

Stock in Procter, which is based in Cincinnati, rose 48 cents, to $64.50 a share.

Colgate, which was reporting results for its first quarter, said it earned $576 million, or $1.16 a share, up from $3.57 million, or 69 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales rose to $3.99 billion from $3.83 billion.

Excluding one-time items from the year-earlier period, its net income was down 8 percent.

The chief executive, Ian M. Cook, said Colgate raised prices in many categories and in all its markets, and will keep doing so, but he declined to provide details.

Stock in Colgate, which is based in New York, rose $1.91, to $82.97 a share.

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