Automation Alley Technology Industry Report: Driving Southeast Michigan Forward

 

Automation Alley's 2013 Technology Industry Report

 

Automotive Dealership Arbitrations: Seventy-three General Motors and Chrysler Dealerships

Following the termination of over 1,000 dealerships by General Motors and nearly 800 by Chrysler, federal legislation (HR 3288, Sec 747) was introduced to provide a procedure for the review of the termination decisions. The bill, signed into law on December 16 of 2009, established criteria for the arbitration process, which was organized through the American Arbitration Association. Among the criteria that arbitrators were to consider were the dealership’s profitability, economic viability, market territory, sales performance metrics, and the manufacturer’s business plan.

Seventy-three of the dealerships that pursued arbitration retained Anderson Economic Group for expert analysis in the areas of demography, geography, sales performance analysis, economic viability, and financial analyses. These dealers were located across 23 different states. Fifty-five were General Motors dealerships, and 18 were Chrysler dealerships.

We worked with each dealership to develop a plan of work that focused on the critical elements of their case. These included geographic and demographic assessments to determine if trade area’s were properly assigned, and if performance metrics accurately accounted for local market conditions. In a number of cases we also provided financial analyses to measure the economic viability of a dealership from a profitability standpoint, and to benchmark historic financial performance against an industry average. We also assessed the overall industry structure, economic conditions, and the business plans that manufacturer’s cited as reasons to support dealership terminations. In doing so we were able to illustrate inconsistencies in their positions, and demonstrate that, in many instances, the termination of dealerships was actually harmful to the manufacturer’s economic interests. We also provided consultation regarding settlement and hearing strategies, as well as rebuttal to opposing expert analyses.

Our analyses were used by dealerships to evaluate the strength of their case, to negotiate favorable settlements prior to arbitration, and in 19 cases our experts presented findings before an arbitrator. By the end of the arbitration process more than 90 percent of our clients had received favorable financial settlements, or had been reinstated as dealerships.

The URC's Support for Advanced Manufacturing in Michigan

Manufacturing is embedded in our state’s history, and in our national consciousness, as the engine of economic growth for much of the 20th century. Michigan was the “arsenal of democracy” in World War II, where Henry Ford’s revolutionary wages brought immigrants from numerous countries, and where companies like General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford grew into global enterprises.

Michigan is also the place that, far too often, is saddled with a reputation for being very good at something that is no longer relevant, modern, or particularly useful in the 21st century. In particular, we suffer from the misguided notion that manufacturing is not a “high tech” or high-value-added enterprise. This report provides, in great detail, hard evidence that manufacturing is alive and vital in Michigan today, and that much of the manufacturing done in Michigan today is high-tech, high-productivity advanced manufacturing.

Indeed, there are numerous places in the world where low-tech manufacturing can take place, often where labor and other costs are much lower than in the United States. Manufacturers in Michigan, therefore, must produce high-quality products using high-productivity techniques, and advanced technologies. As we note in this report, advanced manufacturing in Michigan is:

  • An important industry that employs over 10% of the state’s workforce;
  • A productive industry where over half of the employment is in firms whose productivity is growing faster than the average U.S. manufacturing firm;
  • A highly-skilled industry where over one-third of the research and testing jobs in the Midwest are located. 

 

Auto Dealership Performance Assessment and Termination Criteria: Michigan Cadillac Dealership

In response to a notice of termination and  sales performance review from General Motors and ChannelVantage, a Michigan Cadillac dealership retained Anderson Economic Group (AEG) to provide an independent analysis for the dealership. The analysis specifically focused on 1) the factory’s assigned sales and service area, and 2) the methodology used to calculate the dealership’s Retail Sales Index (RSI).

To begin, we reviewed GM’s sales performance calculations and the methodology used by ChannelVantage to arrive at the dealership’s RSI score. Our Geographic Information System (GIS) was utilized to plot the location of the dealerships, its assigned Area of Geographic Sales and Service Advantage (AGSSA), nearby Cadillac dealers, and a ten-minute drive-time area from each dealer. The latter helped to identify census tracts within our client’s AGSSA that were more naturally and/or easily served by another dealer. Measuring the drive-time distances from each of center of these census tracts’ to nearby dealers aided in our revision of the assigned AGSSA. We next analyzed the demographics from the assigned AGSSA and the revised AGSSA, with a focus on variables that correlate with luxury vehicle sales, such as education levels, age, and income. We adjusted the RSI to account for our revisions to the AGSSA based on the reduction in the targeted demographic base, and a reduction in expected market share capture for the vehicle segment.

Our findings illustrated that our client had an unreasonably large market area, including over 20 census tracts that were located closer to other Cadillac dealerships. We also accounted for local demographics and customer behavior, as opposed to broad reaching assumptions based on state-level data, to estimate expected sales levels in the market. With these adjustments, we arrived at a significantly higher RSI relative to what GM determined, and used as a primary factor in termination the dealership. We compiled these findings in a report for the client, which he has shared with members of Congress while lobbying for passage of the Durbin-Hoyer bill that was enacted, and allows all terminated dealership a chance at arbitration.

An Auto Dealer's Guide to Arbitration

This guide is for dealers that are considering participating in the arbitration process established by H.R. 3288, which was signed in to law by President Obama on December 16, 2009. It reviews the timeline and arbitration process, and the criteria that will be considered by the arbitrator. It concludes with some practical steps dealers should take as they consider whether to participate in the arbitration process.

Luxury Vehicle Dealership Site Selection: Detroit, Michigan Area Dealership Group

As part of its dealership restructuring efforts, one of the Detroit Three invited current dealers to submit proposals for a new luxury vehicle dealership in suburban Detroit. Our client, a large dealership group in the Detroit area, retained us to assist in evaluating the OEM’s preferred site and an alternate site that was believed to be better positioned in the market.

We began with an assessment of the current dealer network in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties. This included a drive-time analysis to assess market coverage, both for the current structure and for the structure after the known dealerships closing. We next identified the most likely site for a new dealership in the OEM preferred area and our client’s preferred area, and delineated a market area for each, accounting for drive-times, infrastructure networks, natural barriers, and the market areas for existing dealerships. A demographic and socio-economic analysis was done for each trade area, focusing on variables that predict the success of luxury automobile dealerships. We also analyzed luxury vehicle registration data from RL Polk to measure historic vehicle purchase patterns in each market. Lastly, we considered site specific factors, such as visibility, traffic count data, and proximity to other luxury vehicle dealerships.

Our final results were summarized in a memorandum and presentation to the client, and found the client preferred site to be a much stronger location. Our deliverable  included summary data tables and custom maps showing market areas, demographics, and luxury vehicle registrations. The memorandum and presentation was included by our client in their proposal to the OEM.

Automotive Industry Analysis and Presentation: State of Illinois Financial Forecast Forum

The Illinois City/County Management Association, Illinois Government Finance Officers Association and the Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies Civic Leadership Academy holds an annual financial forecast forum for municipal leaders and financial officers from throughout the state. The day long forum for 2009 attracted more than 50 attendees, and feature speakers from the federal reserve, the banking, retail, and real estate sectors, as well as a presentation on the automotive industry by AEG’s Scott Watkins.

Our presentation addressed: the global nature of the automotive industry and overall economic slowdown; what the automotive industry in the State of Illinois region looks like and how it has changed in recent years; how the industry slowdown might impact automotive operations in the state; the current and forthcoming issues that will further challenge the automotive industry and regional economies that strongly depend on automotive industry employment; and the need to automotive dealership contraction and how that will impact communities throughout the country.

The presentation was delivered to the over 50 attendees of the forum at Northern Illinois State University’s Naperville, Illinois campus. After the presentation AEG consultant Caroline Sallee joined Scott Watkins to address questions from the audience.

The Cost of Bailout Versus Bankruptcy Among the Big 3

Our experts have closely followed the ups and downs of the automotive industry, providing clients with detailed information to help them understand and plan for the resulting changes. Our industry analysis is designed to provide timely, concise, and relevant information that can help any organization—from professional investors, to retailers, to governments—understand the rapid change in the industry, and how restructuring in the industry may impact their own sales, revenues, customer base, and more.  

In October, November, and December of 2008, our experts provided clients with a series of reports updating them on the economic relaities facing the automotive industry. AEG then teamed up with BBK, Ltd. in order to produce the first comprehensive analysis of the taxpayer costs of the Federal bridge financing requested by the auto manufacturers, compared with the likely costs of a bankruptcy declared by one or more of the same manufacturers.

Taxpayer Cost of Federal Financing of Auto Manufacturers Compared with Likely Costs of Bankruptcies in Industry