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Dealer’s Voice: Car Awards have their Place in the Car-buying Process

For Larry Lantz’s last Dealer’s Voice column as President of the TADA, he reflects on the year he’s had in the chair and what’s to come in the automotive industry.

Avatar By: Larry Lantz April 10, 2018
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At the 2018 Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) announced the winners of the 2018 Canadian Car of the Year, and the 2018 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

As a Honda dealer, I was pleased to see the Honda Accord win for Best Car, and I am sure other Honda dealers were equally delighted to learn that one of their cars won Canada’s most prestigious car award. Chrysler dealers, too, were thrilled that the Pacifica won in the category of Utility Vehicle of the Year.

What does it mean for dealerships and the manufacturers when their vehicles win an important award like this? What does it mean for consumers? Can a prestigious car award affect sales of a winning model?

If an award originates from highly reputable research firm (J.D. Power & Associates), consumer group (Consumer Reports), media company (Motor Trend), or association (AJAC), it can have considerable influence, and there is usually some anticipation and speculation among manufacturers and dealers, prior to an announcement.

Automakers will often use a vehicle’s winning status in their advertising to generate additional media coverage and consumer interest. This type of positive publicity happens very quickly — often within days of an announcement being made.

Dealers are quick to capitalize on positive news, too. They will highlight a particular vehicle’s winning status (and features) in their marketing and advertising, hoping the news will influence car buyers to consider the vehicle in question. Salespeople, too, are quick to include a vehicle’s winning status in their conversations with customers.

With consumers, learning that a particular model won a high-profile car award should not mean that they rush out and buy that vehicle. Car awards should not preclude other considerations, such as price, financing costs, fuel economy, safety features, insurance and maintenance costs, resale value, and so on.

Awards provide important information and insights, and consumers should research and plan their purchase carefully. They should know which vehicles have won awards (or multiple awards), particularly if the awards are from a highly reputable source.

While I believe that most car awards have value, consumers should understand what criteria is being evaluated. Some vehicles are judged on overall quality, performance and safety; others on design, tech features, and dependability.


On a personal note, this is my final Wheels column as President of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association. It has been a great thrill and honour to write a weekly column in Canada’s largest circulation newspaper.

The feedback that I have received from Wheels readers, customers, colleagues, friends, and neighbours has been overwhelming. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to read the columns, respond to my ideas and opinions and who reached out to me.

During my term as TADA president, I have had an opportunity to travel to other cities, to meet industry peers in Canada, the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Most of the industry folks I met are dealing with the same issues that our industry is facing in Canada — recruiting and training, maintaining a skilled workforce, adapting to new vehicle technologies, and delivering positive customer experiences in a rapidly changing automotive marketplace.

I have learned a lot of about the automobile industry over the past year. One of the great things about this industry is that whatever position you hold, you never stop learning, and the industry is changing at lightning speed.

Next week, Susan Gubasta, President of Mississauga Toyota, will become the first woman President of the TADA. Susan will take over the Dealer’s Voice column to share her unique views and opinions about the retail auto industry.

Over to you, Susan!

Susan

This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to [email protected] or go to tada.ca. Larry Lantz is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is a new-car dealer in Hanover, Ont.

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