As I always like to do the first week of a new year, it is always fun to look back at the top stories from the previous year. I submit to you the stories I found to be the most significant.
The Year of Recalls. 2014 set a new record for recalls. In fact, thanks to the GM ignition recall and the Takata airbag problems, over 60 million vehicles were recalled. That is roughly one in five vehicles on the road. The previous highest year for recalls was 2004, and the total did not even reach 30 million. GM, Chrysler, and Honda all set records for the most recalls in a year. Over 700 different recalls were announced, meaning there were almost two per day.
Changes at the Top. Big changes for two of the Detroit automakers. Mary Barra took over as GM CEO in January, and walked right into a massive mess with the GM ignition recalls. She has vowed greater transparency, and dealers tell me she has done a great job. Over at Ford, Mark Fields became the CEO, succeeding the man who turned Ford around, Alan Mulally. I don’t envy Fields coming behind Mulally, a man just about everyone loved and respected.
The All-Aluminum F150. Everyone in the industry anxiously awaited the all new 2015 F-150 with its all-aluminum body. Some said it was risky to radically change the #1 selling vehicle in America for over 3 decades. The F-150 started to arrive at dealerships in December and has had no glitches and is being very well received by customers. The dealers’ only complaint is they can’t get enough of them.
Big Year for Sales. As I write this, the final year-end sales numbers have not been tallied, but through eleven months, the industry was on pace for sixteen and a half million sales, and that would make 2014 the best year since 2006. Low interest rates, cheap gas prices, and new model entries all helped make it a great 12 months. Leasing was up as well, fueled by Toyota.
Toyota’s Big Move. Toyota shocked the automotive world by announcing they would move their U.S. headquarters from Southern California to Plano, TX-a suburb of Dallas. Toyota had been in So Cal for 57 years and will be bringing over 4000 jobs to the Lone Star state. No word yet on how many current employees will make the move.
Tesla in the News. It seemed like daily, you read something about Tesla or its CEO Elon Musk. From taking on states that do not allow Tesla to sell direct to the public, to announcing Nevada was the winner of a five billion dollar mega-factory, you could not avoid news about the electric sports car maker. Wall Street took notice too-Tesla stock closed up almost 50% in 2014.
Cadillac Moves to New York. OK, so having your headquarters in New York is hip, I get that. In all my years in the industry, not once has a prospective car buyer asked me where an automaker’s headquarters was. The 32,000 square feet of posh office space is in the Hudson Square area of Manhattan and is thought to be more than three times as expensive as the space occupied in Detroit. How soon we forget the bail outs.
– Jerry Reynolds, The Car Pro