Blue Book Briefing
January 2009 - Blue Book Briefing
In this issue – JANUARY 2009:
· NEW-VEHICLE MARKET ANALYSIS – Timely commentary from Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book and kbb.com: FALLING INTO THE ABYSS
· A YEAR IN REVIEW 2008 – A look back on the year 2008 from Paul Johnson, president and CEO of Kelley Blue Book: “SO, HOW WAS YOUR YEAR?”
· LATEST NEWS & BLOGS ON KBB GREEN – The latest news and blogs posted to KBB Green from the editorial staff of Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com
· LATEST NEWS STORIES ON KBB.COM – The latest video and written news stories from the editorial staff of Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com
· NEW-VEHICLE REVIEWS ON KBB.COM – All-new and updated video and written reviews from the editorial staff of Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com
· WHAT’S NEW:
· Kbb.com Offers Credit History Reports from FreeCreditReport.com®
· Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com Names Ford F-150 ‘2009 Best Redesigned Vehicle’
· Kelley Blue Book Now Releasing Values Weekly, Introduces New Methodologies
Please note: If you are unable to view the tables/graphics in this e-mail, please reply and we’ll be happy to send as an attachment.
Falling Into the Abyss
- Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director & executive market analyst, Kelley Blue Book and kbb.com
I was sitting in the dentist chair the other day when the dental hygienist said to me, “If General Motors just could make more hybrid cars, then they’ll do all right.” And that reminded me what my hygienist has in common with members of Congress and certain journalists from New York, namely, a wrongheaded view of what has gone awry with America’s Big Three automakers and, by extension, what ought to be done to fix it.
It should be made clear from the start that what drove America’s domestic automakers to Capitol Hill to seek a capital infusion was not, repeat not, their lack of hybrid vehicles. Looking at a simple model-by-model count, General Motors currently markets six different hybrid models in the United States, which is the same number marketed by Toyota. Ford Motor Company currently sells two, which is double the number currently sold by Honda in the United States. Certainly, there is more to this story than just a model count – Toyota deserves a great deal of credit for turning the Prius into a volume seller, for example – but aside from the Prius and, perhaps, the Honda Civic Hybrid, individual hybrids have been selling in very small numbers. So pointing the finger at the domestic automakers and telling them they are in their current precarious financial position because, as many have asserted, they didn’t and don’t have hybrids is just plain wrong. Further, the belief that the U.S.-based manufacturers can climb out of the hole they are in by building more hybrids flies in the face of the facts.
While America’s auto manufacturers have been losing market share at an alarming rate over the past few years, the thing that drove them to seek financial help was an event that was beyond their power to control – the near-complete collapse of the consumer credit system in this country as we have known it. Since there is absolutely no doubt that the wheels of the auto industry are greased by consumer credit, the quick and nearly unforeseen tightening (strangling?) of consumer and business credit sent sales hurtling into a brick wall. The situation was almost immediately exacerbated by the general media, which loudly trumpeted the falsehoods that “you can’t get financing” and “you can’t get a lease.” These factors have persuaded many Americans to steer clear of dealer showrooms and sent the sales of all volume manufacturers reeling, even those that had previously been flush, so it is not surprising that it moved the already struggling domestics onto the endangered list.
One might fault the Big Three automakers for not predicting this downturn, but in their defense, aside from us at Kelley Blue Book, there were few voices suggesting a recession in 2008. And virtually no one predicted that the downturn would be so sharp and cut so deep. If the downturn had been one that was more typical – say, like the recession of the early 1990s – it is far less likely the Big Three would have felt compelled to go to Congress for help.
To us, there are two key takeaways from this: one is that those on Capitol Hill who criticize the executives of the domestic automakers for their lack of managerial and financial foresight should look at themselves and question how they let the housing and credit sectors of the economy collapse when they were under their watch. And the second is that political “sound bite policies” that try to link the recovery of the domestic automakers with expanded production of hybrid vehicles simply will not work. For the sake of the entire economy and each and every one of us as consumers, the domestic automakers deserve support, support that will allow them to escape the unexpected but undeniable circumstances that swept over them, beyond their control. The President and Congress should heed their call.
A Year in Review 2008: “So, How Was Your Year?”
- Paul Johnson, president and CEO, Kelley Blue Book
Kelley Blue Book and kbb.com have had the most successful year in the company’s 82-year history. Three years of intense capital investment, technology development and hiring surpassed our aggressive projected returns.
The year began with a major organizational restructure of our workforce that had nearly doubled to 500 in 24 months. Key to building an effective organization early in 2008 was the ongoing dedication of Kelley Blue Book employees and an unwavering commitment to our Core Values: Trust, Integrity, Teamwork, Innovation, Success and Humor. The goals of aligning key functional teams with strategic imperatives and empowering individuals to drive results were achieved. Within that structure, we were rewarded for our 100 percent commitment to the Agile Development process by successfully deploying several major technology initiatives and seamlessly integrating and growing our off-shore development capabilities.
Flexible and Fast Systems
Technological advances achieved in 2008 have enabled Kelley Blue Book to come closer to realizing our goal of providing the industry and in-market shoppers with the most accurate and relevant vehicle values anywhere. In fact, we believe the foundation has been established for the systems and advanced analytics that will differentiate Kelley Blue Book from the competition for years to come. The first step was building and transitioning our dealer and finance customers from a CD-ROM-based pricing and inventory management desktop tool to a completely Web-based application. While admittedly the conversion of more than 8,000 customers and hosting the entire related vehicle inventory while delivering 24/7 access had it bumps, we now end the year with a stable, fast and flexible platform upon which to build future enhancements.
In parallel with developing the infrastructure and systems for near real-time Web-based vehicle information delivery, Kelley Blue Book entered the final phases of one of its greatest undertakings; rebuilding its entire information collection, warehousing, analytics and distribution systems. With the new proprietary processes and systems, Kelley Blue Book collects tens of millions of vehicle transactions with up to one hundred data points associated with each vehicle. External field analysts physically inspect and electronically capture in-depth information on more than a half-million vehicles each year. In fact, we collect and analyze more information East of the Rocky Mountains than West. The diverse set of vehicle descriptions from dozens of sources is captured, “normalized” in a standard schema, validated for accuracy and warehoused in a sophisticated relational database.
Our experts apply advanced analytics to the literally billions of data points in Kelley Blue Book’s data warehouse. We recruited a team of some of the strongest statisticians in the industry to apply both advanced analytics and quantitative rigor to develop regression models that drive our new- and used-vehicle values and predictive 60-month residual values. The residual value models are validated using 12 million historical transactions over a seven year period, and the accuracy of the quantitative models is outstanding. The predictive models are driven by volumes of transactions as well as current macro-economic factors such as consumer confidence, unemployment rates, supply and demand and gas prices.
Perhaps the most visible example of Kelley Blue Book’s advanced information capabilities is the increase in frequency of its “Blue Book” values from bi-monthly to weekly. On December 4, 2008, Kelley Blue Book made weekly value updates available to the industry through its Web-based product, KarPower Online, and syndicated information services. In addition, we introduced a new “Auction Value” to help dealers make buy/sell decisions in the auction lanes and in negotiating consumer trade-ins. The breadth, depth and timeliness of the Kelley Blue Book data gives dealers insights into the market and confidence in their decisions more than ever before. We look forward to rapidly expanding our information capabilities with a focus on delivering market intelligence at a very granular level.
Another aspect of Market Intelligence for which Kelley Blue Book is becoming well-known falls outside of strictly vehicle pricing and valuations. In 2008, Kelley Blue Book’s Marketing Research business grew by more than 100 percent. Marketing Research leverages Kelley Blue Book’s unique relationship with in-market car shoppers. We tap into the thoughts and behaviors of the more than 13 million visitors per month researching their next vehicle purchase on kbb.com. Monthly online surveys reveal shoppers’ make, model, trim perceptions and attitudes by vehicle segment and are broken down by in-depth demographics. Kbb.com also tracks the research behavior of its massive audience through advanced click-stream analysis. Insights relative to the responsiveness of advertising and incentives by DMA as well as competitive considerations are all gleaned from the “Market Watch” weekly online dashboard. We are very pleased that a growing number of manufacturers and advertising agencies are taking advantage of this powerful market intelligence and look forward to continuing to improve the product offerings in 2009.
“The Trusted Resource”
What makes the Marketing Research business intelligence products possible and what differentiates Kelley Blue Book is the fact that we have a trusted relationship with both the industry and consumers. Kbb.com is “The Trusted Resource,” and one out of every three new-car buyers and nearly 65 percent of used-car shoppers rely on Kelley Blue Book for information before making their purchases. Kelley Blue Book continues its commitment to provide a great user experience and the most relevant information for buying and selling cars. This year, we created new tools to help undecided shoppers discover which new or used vehicle best fit their needs. Visitor forums, consumer vehicle reviews and ratings and 360-degree photographs all added to the pricing and values that kbb.com offers to in-market buyers and sellers.
Kelley Blue Book’s Editorial Team wrote more than 300 new-vehicle reviews and car comparisons, and more than 100 video reviews were produced and posted on kbb.com as well as YouTube.com and Facebook.com. When gas prices were skyrocketing, we launched KBB Green® to help in-market buyers get the straight scoop on new fuel technologies and understand if it made financial sense to trade in their gas guzzler for a more fuel efficient car.
Connecting Buyers with the Car of Their Choice
Connecting consumers with the vehicle of their choice is a primary goal of Kelley Blue Book. To that end, Kelley Blue Book connected more in-market shoppers to dealers than any time in its history and remains one of the top lead-generation sources with truly serious shoppers. Kelley Blue Book also made its “LeadDriver” product widely available to dealers’ Web sites so that consumers on a dealer’s site may price out their potential trade-in and submit a lead for their new car. This product experienced excellent growth over the past 12 months as an expanding number of dealers saw the value in leveraging the goodwill of the Kelley Blue Book brand to connect with customers. Further, to help consumers find local dealers, Kelley Blue Book expanded its regional advertising program to target kbb.com visitors by where they are located and what make of vehicle they are interested in.
Posting Inventory Online
Recognizing that in-market shoppers want to see the actual car they are considering, whether new or used, Kelley Blue Book purchased a company called CDMdata in 2003 to enable dealers to post their inventory online with complete descriptions and pictures, quickly and easily. 2008 was the fifth consecutive year of phenomenal growth for CDMdata. CDMdata has developed a sophisticated pen tablet device with integrated VIN scanner and digital camera to allow dealers to book-in a vehicle, print a window sticker, create POS hang tags and export the pre-formatted inventory listing to any of more than 300 sites, including eBay, Craigslist and a dealership’s own Web site. Dealers have the option of using the easy-to-use application themselves or a full-service solution where a CDM employee goes to the dealer’s lot and does it all for them. CDM expanded into five additional markets in 2008 and continues to expand the number of devices used by dealers. Continuous improvement is the mantra of CDMdata in terms of service quality, photo quality, marketing effectiveness and ease of use.
Kelley Blue Book believes in the ultimate promise of the Internet, to seamlessly connect buyers and sellers, and will continue to launch innovative new products and services in 2009 to make it a reality. It has been a tremendous year for Kelley Blue Book and CDMdata. To summarize the year in just a few words, 2008 has been “Successful. Stressful. Rewarding. Challenging. Surprising. Fun.” Kelley Blue Book wraps up 2008 stronger than ever and very prepared to support the automotive industry in 2009.
LATEST NEWS & BLOGS ON KBB GREEN:
Check out the very latest news and blog entries by visiting www.kbb.com/green and clicking on News & Blogs.
The following latest news & blogs by kbb.com’s editorial staff went live on the site or were updated during December 2008.
LATEST NEWS STORIES ON KBB.COM:
Check out the very latest news stories by visiting www.kbb.com and scrolling down to the Latest News & Articles link on the home page.
The following latest news stories by kbb.com’s editorial staff went live on the site or were updated during December 2008.
Written Stories Accompanying Video:
NEW-VEHICLE REVIEWS ON KBB.COM - VIDEO:
The following new-vehicle video reviews by kbb.com’s editorial staff went live on the site or were updated during December 2008. To see any new-vehicle review from kbb.com’s editorial staff, please visit www.kbb.com and click on the News and Reviews tab, then select the make and model.
· BMW X6
NEW-VEHICLE REVIEWS ON KBB.COM - WRITTEN:
The following new-vehicle reviews written by kbb.com’s editorial staff went live on the site or were updated during December 2008. To see any new-vehicle review from kbb.com’s editorial staff, please visit www.kbb.com and click on the News and Reviews tab, then select the make and model.
The all-new 2009 Acura TL rolls off its Marysville, Ohio, assembly line with a fresh look that includes substantially more attitude than its predecessor. Gone is the attractive yet sedate styling, replaced by a bolder sedan wearing a love-it-or-hate-it grille borrowed from other recent Acura models. In addition to six more inches of body length, the redesigned TL also features more powerful engines, a new sport-tuned SH-AWD (Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive) variant, and a Technology Package that can blow out eardrums as easily as it guides drivers away from stressful traffic congestion. Though not as engaging as competitors such as the BMW 3 Series and Infiniti G37, the Acura TL continues to impress with its reasonable price, quality feel and all-around abilities…
Looking for a premium-branded sedan with a sub-$30,000 starting price and fuel economy that reaches into the 30 miles-per-gallon range? Congratulations, you've found it. While its Acura TL big brother competes with heavy hitters like the BMW 3 Series and Infiniti G Sedan, the second-generation Acura TSX is light on direct competitors. The Volvo S40 is one, as are the lower-powered versions of the Audi A4 and Lexus IS. The TSX's big advantage versus most of its competitors can be summed up in a word that a premium-brand marketer like Acura would never use: Value. A fully-loaded, tech-laden 2009 Acura TSX tops out just under $33,000. Combined with an EPA rating of up to 30 mpg on the highway, the Acura TSX may be the best premium bargain going…
The 2009 Audi A3 has succeeded where others before it have failed. Conventional wisdom says Americans don't purchase small premium-luxury hatchbacks, and the lackluster sales of the BMW 318ti and Mercedes-Benz C230 coupe seem to lend credence to the theory. Yet, despite all odds, Audi's A3 has caught on, offering four-door versatility wrapped in a sleek package that forgoes a trunk in favor of a rear hatchback. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the A3 is priced well below $30,000, offers two great engine choices and is fitted with many of Audi's trademark features, such as quattro all-wheel drive and the revolutionary Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG)…
The 2009 Audi A4 Cabriolet continues as an alternative to the BMW 3 Series, and offers luxury, technology, sporty handling and a strong visual connection to the rest of the Audi family. This will probably be the last year for the current soft-top Cabriolet, which will most likely be replaced next year by an all new retractable hard-top model similar to the BMW 3 Series and Volvo C70. In the meantime, Audi hopes a high level of content, progressive style and an accessible price make a compelling case for drivers that like a hands-on driving experience and the wind in their hair…
While Audi's lineup has increased over the years, the A4 Sedan and Wagon (Avant, in Audi-speak) has remained been the German automaker's volume leader, thanks to its ability to blend spirited driving performance with passenger comfort at a reasonable price. Although other comparable luxury offerings – like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Infiniti G Sedan – may have been the headliners in recent years, the capable A4 has always been there, biding its time in the wings and waiting to swiftly enter stage right. Finally, it now deserves the spotlight again: with bolder exterior styling, a more spacious interior, a re-tuned 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged TFSI engine and an enriched list of available content, the 2009 Audi A4 is ready for its close up…
Audi admits it came late to the sport utility game, but, nevertheless, the 2009 Q7 quattro is a triumph of technology, elegance, performance and quality. The Premium Plus version wraps around seven passengers in classy comfort and safety, offering innovative features to help you park easily, drive smoothly and enjoy a versatile lifestyle. With all the hallmarks of Audi's heritage, the Q7 does not disappoint, and handling and interior amenities compare with any luxury sedan. Finally, the quattro all-wheel-drive system provides exceptional slick-surface traction and security…
By all accounts, the 2009 Audi R8 is a supercar, but that doesn't mean it's uncompromising and hard-edged. It's an incredibly capable performance machine, yet every bit as luxurious as it is sporting. The posh interior is loaded with electronics and bathed in leather and Alcantara. With Audi's venerable 4.2-liter V8 providing the power, the R8 isn't at all temperamental, as the notion of a supercar might suggest. Then again, it had better be really good if it is to compete with its most obvious rival, the Porsche 911 Turbo…
The undeniably well-proportioned 2009 Audi S5 marks a late but bold entrance into the luxury performance coupe segment for Audi. A high-performance version of the company's sleek A5, the S5 was actually launched before the "garden-variety" A5, which speaks volumes about Audi's commitment to its performance image. As M is to BMW and AMG to Mercedes, Audi's "S" cars are high performance versions of existing models. While the S5 is no exception to the rule, it is our experience is that it is not as uncompromisingly geared toward performance as BMW's M3, or as luxury oriented as the Mercedes-Benz CLK 550…
Just as sports cars are getting more comfortable, luxury cars are becoming more athletic. A key enabler on the luxury side is the latest generation of dynamic suspension systems that can change from firm to soft in a matter of milliseconds and eliminate the need for engineers to seek one particular compromised spot between ride and handling. Combine a system like that with a big V10 engine and a lightweight aluminum structure and you've got a very impressive and competent luxury sedan that can also satisfy the most serious enthusiast. The 2009 Audi S8 is just such a vehicle…
First introduced for 2002, the Avalanche combined a full-size SUV body with a pickup truck's cargo bed. The second generation launched in 2007 continues for 2009 with a host major improvements and the addition of a more fuel-efficient six-speed automatic transmission. The Chevrolet Avalanche is built on GM's full-size SUV platform, which is also used for the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL, and it offers gasoline as well as Flex-Fuel (E85) capability. Refined small-block 5.3-liter V8 engines are standard, and a 6.0-liter V8 that uses variable valve timing is optionally available. Three trim levels are offered: LS, LT, and LTZ (with the LT level further divided into LT1, LT2 and LT3) and with rear-wheel or four-wheel drive…
During a complete image makeover in 2006, the Impala gained a cleaner, more sophisticated exterior and a significant interior upgrade. The 2009 Chevrolet Impala, slotted to compete with class front-runners Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, has little change. Although the Impala may not have the strong resale figures of its Japanese rivals, it does have a number of redeeming qualities. The Impala features a large back seat and trunk, as well as something no other import in the class offers: An optional V8 engine. Still, it's fair to say the Impala has its work cut out for it. With newer and better equipped vehicles, such as the Ford Taurus and Dodge Charger, ready to steal away domestic customers, dealers may be willing to deal to help keep the Impala moving…
Chevy's mid-size Malibu, like most GM passenger cars, suffered corporate neglect in the 1990s and early 2000s as customers – and the company's engineering attention and budget – increasingly shifted toward trucks and SUVs. Still, the plain-looking previous Malibu has drawn kudos as a solid, reliable, high-value contender and has sold fairly well. Fresh from last year's complete makeover, Chevrolet's Malibu has bolted from middle-of-the-road contender straight to the top of the mid-size sedan game. The 2009 Malibu looks wonderful, is solidly built and carefully crafted inside and out, offers good fuel economy, drives wonderfully and is priced to sell in serious volumes. There is even an affordable "mild" hybrid version that performs better than the base four-cylinder car and gets four miles-per-gallon better in city driving…
The Ford F-150 may hold the title of best selling individual pickup in the country, but when you combine the sales of the Chevrolet Silverado with the nearly-identical GMC Sierra, it's a different story. The General Motors pickups outsell the Ford handily and also outsell all the import label pickup trucks combined. After undergoing a complete remake in 2007, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado enters a year witnessing a major drop in truck and SUV sales. To its credit, the new line of Active Fuel Management-equipped V8 engines offered in the Silverado give it segment-leading fuel economy. And, for those with an ecological bent, a Flex-Fuel E85-capable engine and two-mode hybrid model are also available…
Building on the well-received Tahoe, Suburban and lighter-duty 1500 pickups, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD/3500HD series brings increased capabilities, refined interiors and enhanced drivability. And, in a nod to Ford's Super Duty line, there's more to differentiate this newest heavy-duty truck from its lighter-duty sibling…
While full-size pickup truck sales are down, they still represent a substantial part of the automotive market. With a 2009 redesign, Dodge is hoping its Ram pickup can cut into the sales of the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado. To accomplish that goal, Dodge has given the Ram a crew-cab body style, a coil-spring rear suspension, a refined interior, unique storage options and more available power with an upgraded HEMI V8. The result is a smooth, quiet pickup that is a match for anything in its class…
It is hard to imagine a more inauspicious time to introduce a new full-size pickup truck – with the possible exception of the Eve of Destruction – but the all-new-for-2009 Ford F-150 is shouldering its way into the U.S. market on a crest of increased capabilities across the board. With credit tight and leasing options for new pickups shrinking, Ford figures that the bulk of its sales will come from buyers who genuinely need the unique aspects full-size pickups offer – big payload and towing capacities among them – instead of those who simply want to be seen in a pickup. With this in mind, Ford engineers built in class-leading capabilities in both those areas while, at the same time, boosting fuel economy across the board. But don't think they skimped on creature comforts, as the F-150 offers increasing levels of luxury from among its 35 variants…
The 2009 Flex is Ford's newest and arguably most attractive crossover SUV. Designed to carry seven passengers, yet achieve the same kind of fuel economy as a mid-size sedan, the Flex is part of a growing trend away from V8-powered leviathans and toward more efficient vehicles, particularly when towing is not a high priority. If all you need is room for the family, the Taurus X could certainly do the trick, but it doesn't have the cutting-edge cool the square-as-a-shoebox Flex seems to ooze; you might even have to wrestle your teenagers for driving privileges. And why not? With room for lots of their friends, an optional built-in refrigerator and the technology-friendly SYNC audio system, the Flex can easily transform itself from family transport to Friday-night cruiser with just a turn of the ignition…
Honda made a name for itself by building small, frugal and reliable hatchbacks. Yet, as the company grew, so did its cars. Larger models, with trunks, soon came to symbolize the Honda brand, leaving many to predict the death of the Honda hatchback. Not willing to concede the youth market to Scion and MINI, Honda returned to its humble beginnings by creating the five-door Honda Fit. Although this entry-level hatchback is priced slightly higher than most of its competition, the Fit nevertheless offers an ample supply of features, versatility and, above all, that unbeatable Honda resale value. Given a major makeover for 2009, the Fit continues to see strong sales across all demographics, proving Americans will buy hatchbacks so long as they offer the right blend of style, fun and efficiency…
There are only a handful of true performance-oriented crossover SUVS. Among the more notable are the Porsche Cayenne, the BMW X6 and the all-new 2009 Infiniti FX. Like its competitors, the FX is more a tall performance sedan than a rugged off-road explorer. True to its Infiniti roots, the new FX is fast, loaded with luxurious trappings and technological gadgetry and is one of the most alluring and fun-to-drive vehicles in its class. And, if you can live without the V8 engine, the V6-powered FX35 can even be classified as affordable – at least by luxury car standards…
The 65-year history of what has become America's definitive off-roader – and an icon on the level of national treasures such as the Corvette and Mustang – began with a run of nearly 650,000 units built for use during the last world war. Distributed strictly for civilian enjoyment today, Jeep claims the percentage of Wrangler owners who take their vehicles off road is higher than that of any other brand. A short wheelbase, solid front and rear axles and renowned all-wheel-drive systems combine in a perennial favorite of rock crawlers, mudders and light off-roaders alike. The longest, widest and most livable design to date, the 2009 Jeep Wrangler continues to enjoy a wide and deeply loyal audience…
It's now five years into the compact MAZDA3's run, and despite an all-new model on the way in 2010, demand remains high. The 2009 Mazda MAZDA3 continues to attract buyers, due to its attractive styling, impressive array of standard and optional features, good fuel economy and sporty handling. Few economy cars have enough style to sit beside an Audi A3 and look right at home, yet the MAZDA3 can do just that, and its starting price at slightly over $15,000 places it within the reach of most compact car buyers. The MAZDA3 is available in two body styles, with the four-door sedan offering two four-cylinder engine choices: A 2.0-liter or 2.3-liter. The five-door hatchback is available only with the larger engine. Both models are notably popular with drivers young and old, poking a big hole in the commonly-held belief that Americans won't buy hatchbacks…
The 2009 Mazda MAZDA5 is an interesting offering. Built from the same chassis that spawned the smash-hit MAZDA3, the MAZDA5 looks like a cross between a compact hatchback and a midsize minivan. Offering sliding side doors and three-row seating, the MAZDA5 can certainly swallow its share of people and cargo, and its willing suspension is truly delightful. If the MAZDA5 has a weak point it's that the standard 2.3-liter engine lacks enough muscle to give this family-friendly vehicle the "Zoom-Zoom" attitude found in the CX-7 and CX-9 crossover utility vehicles. Still, for those who travel mostly in urban settings and don't require the ability to tow a trailer, the MAZDA5 makes an excellent alternative to a cramped compact wagon or heavy SUV…
Mazda has long been known for its dramatic styling and unconventional ideas. What Mazda has not been known for is an ability to compete in the mid-size family sedan market, a territory that up until now has been dominated by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. But the new MAZDA6 may find an audience here, offering commendable marks in the areas of interior space, fuel economy and performance, while demonstrating styling both inside and out that takes it to the top of the class…
The 2009 Nissan Maxima continues its flagship status with an entirely new look and purpose. Aiming to compete in the narrow segment between the family-oriented Altima sedan and the luxury-performance Infiniti G37 sedan, the Maxima competes against, among others, the Volkswagen Passat, Pontiac G8 and Chrysler 300. Nissan built this front-drive four-door to please both performance and luxury-sedan fans alike, and it scores on both points. Although marginally smaller in size than the previous-generation model, the 2009 Maxima exudes a sporty coupe vibe from the outside while retaining its roominess on the inside. With its aggressive new look and increased power, Nissan is touting this new incarnation of the Maxima as the return of the "four-door sports car…"
With the wild roller coaster ride first of gas prices and then the economy, consumers find themselves looking towards more cost-effective transportation. It's no surprise, therefore, that so many automakers have joined the small-crossover party, offering SUV-like vehicles with much more agreeable fuel economy. Last year Nissan decided to throw its hat into the ring, introducing the aggressively-styled and nimble Rogue. The base model is comparatively bare, but the long list of available features, including Bluetooth and all-wheel drive, means that the Rogue can be customized to suit just about any lifestyle. The Rogue stands to compete in a rapidly growing segment, against the likes of the established and successful Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and the redesigned Saturn VUE. With competitors like these and a lack of available V6 or navigation, the Rogue's price and fuel economy may be its best selling points…
Once considered GM's best hope for fighting the Japanese small-car invasion, Saturn's cars have grown larger and more expensive while its customer base has grown older and more conservative. To get back in the groove, the company last year borrowed a popular European brand to replace the aging and bland Ion. While the Saturn Astra may be new to us, its twin has been a hot seller in Europe for the last five years. Saturn hopes the reasonably-priced 2009 Astra will once again put it on the shopping list of today's tech-savvy youth, evidenced by the car's very own page on the popular Facebook networking site…
The 2009 Saturn Outlook is part of a family of three-row crossover vehicles that include the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse. For most families, the Outlook offers all the relevant capability of GM's three-row, truck-based SUVs, but with better ride and handling, easier entry and exit and better fuel economy. The Outlook and its GM brethren appear poised for unprecedented success in a category pioneered by the now-defunct Chrysler Pacifica and still competitive Ford Taurus X, not to mention the all-new Ford Edge…
KBB.COM OFFERS CREDIT HISTORY REPORTS FROM FREECREDITREPORT.COM®
Credit Reports Give Consumers Important Car-Buying Insight in a Slowing Economy
Irvine, Calif., December 11, 2008 – Kelley Blue Book, the leading provider of new- and used-car information, today announces that site visitors can now access their personal credit reports on kbb.com thru an agreement with FreeCreditReport.com. FreeCreditReport.com, a Web site owned by ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company, provides consumers with quick access to their individual credit information, giving them the opportunity to assess their financial situation in an easy-to-read format prior to purchasing a vehicle.
“The strategic relationship between FreeCreditReport.com and Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com further exemplifies our dedication to providing valuable car-buying information to the consumer with the help of our partners,” said Damon Bennett, director of business development for Kelley Blue Book. “Car shoppers can benefit from the expertise of both companies on the top-rated automotive Web site because it allows them to make confident finance decisions related to their new and used vehicle purchase.”
Kelley Blue Book averages 13 million visits to its Web site, www.kbb.com, each month. Vehicle shoppers come to kbb.com to research new- and used-car values and related information, including new-car reviews, dealer price quotes, auto loan and insurance resources, and more. Car shoppers further benefit from having all of the desired automotive information to make an informed purchase decision at their fingertips in one place on kbb.com.
“By establishing a relationship with Kelley Blue Book, we can reach in-market car shoppers in the middle of their research and buying process, said Charles Lee, senior vice president of partnership marketing for FreeCreditReport.com. “Allowing consumers instant access to their credit information ahead of their purchase empowers them to make more educated decisions, which will help them reach their personal financial goals.”
Having the ability to access and evaluate one’s credit history while shopping for a vehicle is imperative to the car-buying process, especially in a slowing economy. A car-shopper’s credit score helps lending institutions determine their “credit worthiness” and gives insight into the terms and monthly rate of a loan. Being knowledgeable about a credit score also can give consumers the upper-hand in negotiating a better interest rate and qualifying for special incentives at the dealership. If a consumer is granted a pre-approved loan through a bank or credit union, they also may use their credit score as a negotiating tool on the dealership lot to see if their captive finance company can beat the pre-approved loan terms.
For more information, please visit Kelley Blue Book’s www.kbb.com or FreeCreditReport.com.
KELLEY BLUE BOOK’S KBB.COM NAMES FORD F-150 “2009 BEST REDESIGNED VEHICLE”
Editors of Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com Laud 2009 Ford F-150’s Magnitude of Improvements, Options, Features
IRVINE, Calif., December 10, 2008 – The expert editors at Kelley Blue Book www.kbb.com, the leading provider of new- and used-vehicle information, today announce the 2009 Ford F-150 pickup truck has been named 2009 Best Redesigned Vehicle. The kbb.com editors praise the 2009 Ford F-150 for being more powerful, efficient, refined and tech-laden than its predecessor, and the sheer magnitude of the all-new F-150’s improvements allow it to come out on top as Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com Best Redesigned Vehicle for 2009. Five years ago, Ford’s flagship pickup won the first Best Redesigned Vehicle accolade from Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com and this year, it becomes the first repeat winner.
“The all-new 2009 Ford F-150 doesn’t just haul and tow more, it also does it better than its best competitors while still being comfortable and quiet on the highway and easy around town,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book and kbb.com. “The multitude of options available on the new F-150, from three cab styles, four box options, seven trim levels, three V8 engine choices, combined with cool features like a SYNC/Sirius/Sony infotainment suite and integral tailgate step, helps to crown it our 2009 Kelley Blue Book Best Redesigned Vehicle.”
Few products reflect the accelerating pace of change more than the automobile. Whereas many of yesterday’s new models were not much more than styling updates, today’s redesigns are more often leaps and bounds ahead of their predecessors in every way. Accordingly, it takes an exceptional product to be named Kelley Blue Book’s Best Redesigned Vehicle.
“We were so impressed with the 2009 Ford F-150, we’d go so far as to say it isn’t just a great truck, it’s a step forward for what a vehicle can be,” said Nerad. “Imagine a truck that can help you keep track of your tools and keep you aware of where your employees are, and you can see that the new F-150 brings with it world-class innovation.”
The Best Redesigned Vehicle accolade honors the vehicle that best demonstrates improvement and superiority relative to its predecessor and competitors. In judging, the kbb.com editors consider exterior and interior styling, technology, comfort and convenience features, performance/capability, driving dynamics, safety, fuel economy, overall refinement and, of course, value.
Dozens of vehicles were redesigned for the 2009 model-year. In addition to the award-winning 2009 Ford F-150, rounding out the top 10 finalists for kbb.com’s 2009 Best Redesigned Vehicle were (in alphabetical order) the Acura TL, Acura TSX, Audi A4, Dodge Ram, Honda Fit, Mazda6, Nissan Maxima, Nissan Murano and Subaru Forester.
Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com
“Best Redesigned Vehicle” History
The year 2009 is the third time in six years that a Ford model has taken the Best Redesigned Vehicle title, and it also marks the second time the F-150 has taken top honors. Honda broke the Ford streak in 2006 with the redesigned Civic coupe and sedan, and Chevrolet won back-to-back in 2007 and 2008 with the Silverado full-size pickup and Malibu sedan, respectively.
“Each year, redesigned vehicle models improve with more standard features and exciting options, giving consumers great choices when it comes to shopping for a new car,” said Nerad. “These days, it’s tough to find a new vehicle in any category or price-point that isn’t up to par, so choosing a vehicle as the year’s Best Redesign is a great challenge.”
Vehicles usually are redesigned every four to five years, although some brands wait longer to redesign their models. For more information about the 2009 Best Redesigned Vehicle and the top 10 finalists, visit www.kbb.com/redesign09.
KELLEY BLUE BOOK NOW RELEASING VALUES WEEKLY, INTRODUCES NEW METHODOLOGIES
Wholesale Value Renamed Wholesale Lending Value, Auction Value Introduced, Books Move to Monthly
IRVINE, Calif., December 8, 2008 – Kelley Blue Book, www.kbb.com, the leading provider of new- and used-vehicle information, is now publishing its used-vehicle values weekly via its Web-based product KarPower Online®. Prior to this week, only the Kelley Blue Book® Trade-In Values were updated weekly, while other values were published in the Kelley Blue Book Official Guide every other month. The Blue Book Official Guide also has an updated publishing schedule with its frequency moving from every other month to monthly. Blue Book Official Guide customers received their first monthly edition in November of 2008.
In addition to striving for greater accuracy through more frequent updates, Kelley Blue Book has added an ‘Auction Value,’ which is what a used vehicle is expected to sell for at a wholesale auction. An additional change includes a name change for the company’s Wholesale Value, a long-standing benchmark for automotive lending, which is now the ‘Wholesale Lending Value.’ The Wholesale Lending Value will be updated weekly reflecting the value of a vehicle that has been fully reconditioned, inspected and is frontline ready. Finance companies can now use Kelley Blue Book’s Wholesale Lending Value without any additional calculation to mitigate risk and better manage lending portfolios.
“Kelley Blue Book had been planning to move to weekly values for some time, but with the changing economy and the volatility in the automotive marketplace, we sped up the process to offer greater accuracy now,” said Paul Johnson, president and CEO of Kelley Blue Book. “Having access to the most timely and relevant values in the industry will allow automotive businesses to have insight into the market each week to make the most informed buying, selling and finance decisions.”
Dealers, manufacturers, finance companies and others in the automotive industry can access all of Kelley Blue Book’s weekly values through a paid subscription to the company’s Internet-based valuation system, KARPOWER Online (www.karpower.com), through syndication or via our service provider RouteOne® and others.
New Values Definitions
Auction Value: The expected auction transaction value. Auction Value is what a vehicle is expected to sell for at a wholesale auction. The Auction Value assumes the seller has properly disclosed the condition of the vehicle (including any flood or frame damage). It does not include buyer’s fees or the buyer’s transportation costs and assumes the vehicle has not yet been fully reconditioned, inspected or prepared for retail sale.
Wholesale Lending Value: The expected finance value of a fully reconditioned vehicle. Wholesale Lending Value is a trusted benchmark value for wholesale and retail lenders. Based on Kelley Blue Book’s Auction Value, the Wholesale Lending Value assumes that the vehicle is in good or excellent condition, fully reconditioned, inspected and prepared for retail sale.
Kelley Blue Book Employs Advanced Analytics
One of the greatest challenges facing dealers and lenders in the automotive industry today is pricing vehicle inventories as close to market as possible. When timely and market-reflective values are in place, these businesses can allay risk, minimize losses and increase profits. Values updated weekly using hundreds of thousands of actual transactions with regional factors applied, help businesses better manage their inventories in a volatile economy.
In combination with supplying weekly values to the industry and introducing the Kelley Blue Book Auction Value, the company has also revolutionized its valuation methodology. The company’s move to a more robust quantitative approach using improved statistical models and advanced analytic techniques has been in development for more than a year. Kelley Blue Book has now significantly upgraded its statistical models analyzing more national transaction data than ever and taking into account additional macroeconomic factors and industry trends to produce the most refined values in the company's history. Such factors and trends include the cost of gasoline, production levels, supply and demand, catalytic events (e.g. hurricanes, floods, spike in gas prices) as well as competition in each vehicle segment.
“Kelley Blue Book’s commitment to delivering the most market-relevant values in the industry is reflected in recent enhancements to its advanced valuation methodology,” said Vince Nelson, executive vice president of Information Services for Kelley Blue Book. “The significant improvement to our values and the underlying data collection, warehousing, analytics and more frequent distribution results in values in which the industry can have great confidence.”
In the last year, Kelley Blue Book forged several new data supply relationships with auctions, manufacturers and dealers, dramatically enhancing the company’s data points available for analysis into the tens of millions. In the last year, The Trusted Resource® has also deployed more than a dozen automotive analysts into regional markets nationwide, with sophisticated hand-held devices to capture localized information and a depth of data not available through standard auction reporting. The placement of these analysts across the United States ensures that data collection is of the highest quality and conditions in regional markets from California to New York are well understood and documented.
Kelley Blue Book collects data from many sources in varying forms. Once the data is collected it goes through a normalization process and is then scrutinized by an in-house data analytics team for missing information and anomalies in the marketplace, as well as to identify regional trends. Any abnormalities or vehicles with missing data are then scrubbed from the information set prior to reaching the company’s new state-of-the-art data warehouse. Each week these highly inspected data sets go through a sophisticated regression model and are then validated, producing used vehicle values that accurately reflect the market.
The updated models and methodologies now employed by Kelley Blue Book enable the company’s forecasting timeframe to be among the shortest in the industry. Currently, Kelley Blue Book forecasts its weekly values one week or less prior to publication, whereas other guidebooks forecast their used-vehicle values three or even four weeks before they reach the hands of dealers and finance companies.
“All of these new analytic processes enable Kelley Blue Book to provide the industry with unrivaled insights into the automotive marketplace, continuing the company's preeminence in vehicle pricing and values,” said Johnson. “With these game-changing enhancements in data collection, quantitative modeling and personnel, the industry can expect the most timely and accurate values today, from a name they know and trust.”
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About Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com)
Since 1926, Kelley Blue Book, The Trusted Resource®, has provided vehicle buyers and sellers with the new and used vehicle information they need to accomplish their goals with confidence. The company’s top-rated Web site, www.kbb.com, provides the most up-to-date pricing and values, including the New Car Blue Book® Value, which reveals what people actually are paying for new cars. The company also reports vehicle pricing and values via products and services, including software products and the famous Blue Book® Official Guide. According to the C.A. Walker Research Solutions, Inc. – 2008 Spring Automotive Web Site Usefulness Study, kbb.com is the most useful automotive information Web site among new and used vehicle shoppers, and half of online vehicle shoppers visit kbb.com. Kbb.com is a leading provider of new car prices, car reviews and news, used car blue book values, auto classifieds and car dealer locations. No other medium reaches more in-market vehicle shoppers than kbb.com.
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