Warren Buffett Now a Car Salesman

Billionaire investor, Warren Buffett, has agreed to buy Van Tuyl Group, America’s fifth-largest auto retailer and plans to buy more dealerships over time.

His Berkshire Hathaway Inc. would acquire an about $8 billion retail business with operations from Florida to California, and use it to snap up family-owned dealerships elsewhere. The retailer, which will be named Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, can leverage Berkshire’s other companies to provide car sales, financing and related services.

The move comes as car-retailing is poised to undergo significant changes that provide greater efficiencies. Dealer profits have been rising as auto makers culled less financially stable businesses during last decade’s financial crisis. Customers also have embraced the Web to shop for cars, cutting dealer overhead costs.

“We’re certainly thinking big and would like to grow the business,” said Jeff Rachor, president of Phoenix-based Van Tuyl Group, which Berkshire agreed to acquire in an all-cash deal. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed.

Mr. Rachor, who will become Berkshire Hathaway Automotive’s chief executive, said the new company intends to pursue dealer acquisitions in the South and Midwest where Van Tuyl already has stores, relying on its new owner’s deep pockets. He estimated there are about 5,000 dealerships that have the scale that match its acquisition goals.

Van Tuyl, a closely held business that was founded in Kansas City nearly 60 years ago, owns dealerships that now sell about 240,000 vehicles a year. The company has been controlled by Larry Van Tuyl, the founder’s son who will become chairman of the new business.

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Which State is Home to the Rudest Drivers?

Weaving in and out of traffic, laying on the horn, cursing out the window, giving the middle finger – no matter where you are, these gestures are rude! But you’re more likely to encounter this offensive driving behavior in some states more than others.

A survey of 2,000 drivers nationwide by Insure.com reveals the top 10 states with the most roadway rudeness.

10. Utah: The amazing race

Recent Utah resident Matt Stubbs says it appears the state’s motorists are all in a race. “But nobody knows where it ends or how to get to the finish,” he adds.  “So everyone drives 5, 10 or 15 miles per hour over the speed limit.

“They tend not to signal, because they wouldn’t want anyone to know their next move. They don’t let people merge. They just keep looking straight ahead and pretending not to see that car trying to squeeze in next.

“They often blow through yield signs as if they don’t exist. And be careful in that parking lot, or you just might get clipped by someone barreling across the parking lanes to shave 10 seconds off their drive time,” says Stubbs.

Read the full story here.

The New and Improved Volt

The Volt was considered a great vehicle for those who want to”go green” and still maintain some style.  General Motors will show the next-generation Chevrolet Volt plug-in at the Detroit auto show in January, Chevy’s top marketer said today.

Tim Mahoney, Chevy’s global chief marketing officer, disclosed the plans at the 2014 Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich. He also revealed a teaser photo that showed the redesigned 2016 Volt’s rear badge and a more sculpted decklid.

The next-gen Volt is expected to arrive in showrooms sometime in late 2015. GM will add a third seat in the rear and downsize to a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine, from the current 1.4-liter four-cylinder, sources have told Automotive News.

GM has sold more than 65,000 Volts since it went on sale in December 2010, making it the top selling U.S. plug-in car, GM said in a statement today.

Still, sales volumes have fallen short of the company’s initial expectations. Former CEO Dan Akerson had initially projected production of 60,000 Volts in 2012 alone.

This year through July, GM sold 10,635 Volts, down 9 percent from a year earlier. Sales dipped 2 percent last year, to 23,094.

GM said nearly 70 percent of buyers who trade in another vehicle for a Volt are coming out of non-GM brands, which is a high conquest rate. The majority of those trade-ins are Toyota Prius hybrids, GM said.

The Volt is powered by energy from its 435-pound battery pack for an estimated range of 38 miles. Once the charge is depleted, the gasoline-powered engine kicks on to power the electric drivetrain.  With this next generation keep the Volt on top?

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The All New McLaren P1 GTR

The all new McLaren P1 GTR is a beautifully designed concept car.  McLaren, Ferrari and Porsche have all come out with their hybrid-powered hypercars, vehicles that boast the bleeding edge of what is possible with today’s road-car technology. The next step, at least in the case of McLaren and Ferrari, is to push that bleeding edge just a hair further, with even faster, more focused versions of the P1 and LaFerrari. At the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, McLaren will be the first to give us a glimpse of that boundary-pushing machine.

The British automaker has announced that the P1 GTR Design Concept will make its global debut smack dab in the middle of Monterey’s legendary car week, with the veil lifting on Friday, August 15 at 6:00 PM EST.

McLaren doesn’t go into many specifics here, simply calling the P1 GTR a track-focused variant of the P1, which we kind of already knew. Based on what we can see from the lone teaser sketch, the new model will have a much more dramatic aerodynamic presence than the street model, with a massive rear wing and a huge rear diffuser. Sandwiched between those two items are a pair of exhaust tips that wouldn’t look out of place on the deck of your average battleship. Carbon fiber should feature prominently, with a few exposed sections of the stuff visible in the teaser image.  What this new super car provides is high speed at low cost.

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America’s Cars Not Getting Any Younger

Cars in America are continuing to age, in spite of blossoming auto sales.

The combined average age of all light vehicles on the road in the U.S. is 11.4 years as of Jan. 1, same as the year before, says IHS Automotive and its Polk subsidiary. That’s still at the highest levels since Polk started tracking it.

For another year, that’s a record level — and now trucks have hit the same level as cars.

“In our history of tracking, we have seen a gradual increase in the average age of vehicles on the road,” says Mark Seng, director of aftermarket solutions at IHS Automotive, in a statement. “This year, we’re seeing somewhat of a plateau in the market, and expect it to remain over the next few years.”

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Fuel Economy Takes a Step in the Right Direction

American vehicles are getting better fuel economy than ever before, according to a study released in late April. Good news for SUV, pickup and muscle car drivers.

Over half of the vehicles sold this year deliver over 23 mpg, with one in nine topping 30 mpg, the study showed.

Even some traditional gas guzzlers are now yielding mileage once considered a stretch for small cars, industry and government data reveals, though automakers still face a stretch achieving the 54.5 mpg target facing them in 2025, observers warn.

“This has been remarkable,” said Mark Cooper, research director for the Consumer Federation of America, which has been tracking fuel economy trends for over a decade. After years of relatively stagnant mileage, the increased federal fuel economy rules passed in 2005 have been paying off, he said, it’s an encouraging example of how public awareness can inspire change in the industry.

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US Auto Sales up 6%

U.S. auto sales picked up steam halfway through March and ended strong. 6% may not seem like huge growth. But after a 3% decline in January and a flat result in February, any sign of momentum is a good one for the industry.

Coming after many months of strong growth, the sluggish results earlier this year raised a troubling question in many investors’ minds: Was it just the weather keeping buyers away from car dealers, or was the economic tide starting to turn for the worse?

Several automakers made a point of saying on Tuesday that the pace of sales improved significantly in late March — a sign that maybe it really was “just the weather.”  As the weather continues to improve, hopefully auto sales do, too.

Read the full article here. 

Best Car Commercials of 2012

Some really awesome, creative ones in the running! Capitalizing on the popularity of car commercials, the advertising competition known as the One Show will make an appearance during the Detroit auto show next month to reveal its picks for the 10 greatest car commercials of the last 25 years.

A panel of more than 100 advertising and journalism professionals will judge 60 entries, and the top 10 will be announced on Jan. 15 during the press preview days for the Detroit auto show. The One Show will also announce a people’s choice award for the car commercial most loved by the public.

Read the full story and watch the commercials here.