CarGurus seeks to boost paying dealers

Growth in customer subscription revenue helped boost third-party vehicle listings site CarGurus in 2019.

The Cambridge, Mass., marketplace company on Thursday reported revenue of $158.2 million in the fourth quarter that ended Dec. 31, 2019, up 25 percent from the same period a year ago. Marketplace subscriptions brought in $140.6 million, a jump of 24 percent from a year earlier, the company said.

Net income for the fourth quarter grew by 6 percent, to $13.2 million, over the same period a year ago.

For the full year, CarGurus reported revenue of $588.9 million, up nearly 30 percent from 2018. Subscription revenue of $526 million also was up by 30 percent from a year ago.

But profit slid by 35 percent for the full year, to $42.1 million. CarGurus said that’s due to a tax benefit of $39.7 million it recorded in 2018 that is largely attributed to the impact of the company’s post-IPO share price on equity compensation plans, and that lifted its earnings last year.

“Over the course of 2019, we invested significant resources to increase our brand recognition, boost direct traffic, improve the consumer experience and, ultimately, increase the quality and quantity of leads we deliver to dealers,” CEO Langley Steinert told analysts Thursday on a fourth-quarter earnings call.

“We made important progress against each of these initiatives throughout the year.”

CarGurus said it had 28,990 paying dealers in the U.S. at the end of 2019, up from 27,534 in the prior year. The company uses a “freemium” model that allows dealerships to list their inventory for free, but can unlock additional features with a subscription fee. CarGurus previously told Automotive News its total dealership count is more than 40,000.

Last month, CarGurus acquired Autolist, a San Francisco online vehicle marketplace that is expected to increase scale for dealers. Dealers who pay to list their inventory on CarGurus also will have access to Autolist, which the company has said is a way to increase value for subscribing dealerships.

The company will focus on enticing more dealers to subscribe in 2020, Steinert said. CarGurus this week rolled out its revamped real-time performance marketing products, which includes social media ads, to dealerships nationwide.

And the company said it intends to reduce advertising on its website this year to offer a better consumer experience, with the goal of driving more leads and increase conversion to sales, CFO Jason Trevisan said on the earnings call. That likely will mean a short-term loss of advertising revenue, he added, as CarGurus expects “very little growth from our OEM and automotive partner advertising business in 2020.”

“While this decision certainly means forgoing short-term transactional advertising revenue, we know this decision is in the best interest of both consumers and dealers and supports a healthier subscription business for CarGurus over the long term,” Trevisan said.

He added that the revenue impact likely will result in “relatively flat” total revenue growth from the fourth quarter of 2019 through the first quarter of 2020. CarGurus projects first-quarter revenue ranging from $156.5 million to $159.5 million. For full-year 2020, CarGurus anticipates revenue of $664 million to $676 million.

CarGurus shares were mostly flat closing at $34.10 on Thursday.

Ford Mustang Mach-E Might Help You Get Lucky… In Love

Ford Mustang Mach-E Might Help You Get Lucky… In Love

Chances are, rolling up to a date in the Ford Mustang Mach-E, or another electric car like a Tesla Model 3, Porsche Taycan and so on, seemingly improves your chances of landing a second date.

And no, we aren’t making this up. According to a Ford survey, people “vibe with electric vehicles.” Ford even goes so far as to say that the Mach-E “might land you a second date – if you play your cards right.”

The actual findings from the survey are as follows:

Two in three people said they would pick an electric vehicle to make a good first impression on someone. Eight out of ten are down for an electric-powered date night – with three in four saying they’d prefer to date an electric vehicle owner.

But for Valentine’s Day, Ford presented the survey results with a bit of humor and twist. Regardless, the findings are that electric cars create a good first impression and on the dating scene, owning an electric car might actually improve your chance of success.

Read more on how you might get lucky by owning the Mach-E in the Ford press release below:

UNLUCKY IN LOVE? SPARK A NEW ROMANCE WITH ALL-ELECTRIC MUSTANG MACH-E NEXT VALENTINE’S DAY

Whether it’s celebrating with a new squeeze, revisiting an old flame or doing the anti-holiday night out with the gals (or guys), your all-electric Mustang Mach-E can make whatever you do on Valentine’s Day a little more special.

Next Valentine’s Day, it might land you a second date – if you play your cards right.

That’s according to a Ford survey* that found people vibe with electric vehicles. Looking for shock value? Two in three people said they would pick an electric vehicle to make a good first impression on someone. Eight out of ten are down for an electric-powered date night – with three in four saying they’d prefer to date an electric vehicle owner.

And if rolling up in your Mustang Mach-E impressed your date, then you better have a plan. Thankfully, you’re covered. Our first-ever cloud-connected communications system – called SYNC® 4A in the Mustang Mach-E – lets you find the right place for a romantic dinner powered by Yelp’s reviews and ratings of the hottest dining spots.

Deliveries of the all-new all-electric SUV begin late 2020. Reserve the Mustang Mach-E here.
 

*The survey was conducted by global research and analytics consultancy PSB in June 2019 covering 3,000 people across Europe, USA and China between June 6 and June 14.

Road Test: 2020 BMW M2 Competition

Road Test: 2020 BMW M2 Competition

“We think to get the right feeling for the car, and the right BMW M feeling, you need a very good balance of lateral and longitudinal performance … so we take a look at the weight-to-power ratio to get overall the best performance.” – Dirk Hacker, Head of BMW M Division

Constructed in 1929, and winding through the protected San Gabriel Mounts, the Angeles Crest Highway is 66 miles of driving enthusiast playground. Most sections are marked with a 55 mph speed limit.

That, combined with hairpin curves, decreasing radius turns and swooping elevation changes makes for a challenging yet scenic drive. There are plenty of drive off areas with marked signs instructing slower drivers to yield.

This is a relief for me, as my rearview mirror was quickly filled with a roving pack of 8-10 Volkswagen Golf GTIs, treachorously close to my back bumper.

I’m in the 405 horsepower, twin-turbocharged BMW M2 Competition. For this version, the M Division dropped in the slightly detuned S55 engine from the M3/M4 (a 40 horsepower bump from the standard kit), and revised suspension and brakes. The M Division also claims the new changes allow more precise steering and a more confidence on the track, by way of the new CFRP strut in the engine compartment which increases chassis rigidity. Boy is it a pretty piece too:


What’s it like to drive?

Very direct and confidence inspiring, unsurprisingly. Switching the modes to Sport Plus engulfs the driver in a rousing soundtrack of “brwahhp”, “pop!”, burbles from the exhaust.

The driving dynamics remind me of the Lancer Evolution VII I used to own while living in the Netherlands. The steering instantly changes directions with a short turn ratio and the suspension displays minimal roll through the turns. The turn-in is super sharp – and it feels agile. The grip was limitless.

BMW allows several different modes which adjusts the character of the electronically adjustable dampers, with three settings, Efficient, Sport and Sport Plus. It’s capable of being a quiet steady cruiser yet wakes up with a loud crackle from the exhaust.

The 405hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged-six produces a violent push of acceleration from 3500rpm onwards, delivering the power with a spectacular roar and a pop between shifts to punctuate the point.

The DCT gearbox shifts incredible quick, on upshifts and downshifts. On the winding Angeles Crest Highway, I mostly kept the car in third and fourth which kept the car right in the powerband.

How does it compare?

With an as tested price of $64,145, the M2 Competition faces tough competition from the likes of the Shelby GT350, Camaro ZL1, and the new Toyota Supra. This is a crowded space, but the M2 more than holds its own when it comes to the performance + comfort equation.

What’s the Verdict?

Juvenile as it may seem, one of my favorite things to do was cruise around my parking garage in Sport Plus and hearing the loud crackles and pops from the exhaust. It put such a huge smile on my face. The other was the turbo rush in combination with the lightning quick gearchanges. The whole package is so well put together and there really is no weak spot – it drives, looks, and sounds beautiful and the soundtrack is off-the-scale. The BMW M2 Competition delivers stunning performance and I’ll miss it terribly.

– Joseph Tseng
Editor carsinsiders.com

AutoNation, SiriusXM to expand service notification program, app

AutoNation Inc. and Automatic Labs Inc., a unit of SiriusXM Holdings Inc., are expanding the AutoNation Connected Car Program to new markets.

The Connected Car Program, powered by Automatic Labs’ in-vehicle adapter and app, was launched at five AutoNation stores in the U.S. in April 2019, the automotive retailer said in a statement Thursday.

The program is expanding in AutoNation’s Houston, Phoenix and New York markets, Marc Cannon, AutoNation’s chief marketing officer, wrote in an email to Automotive News.

The Automatic app gives customers and AutoNation access to vehicle health notifications, active recalls and engine light-check alerts. AutoNation said 97 percent of customers who activated the Connected Car Program at point of sale remain engaged with the program, and it has seen a higher retention of customers’ vehicle maintenance and service business.

“This service establishes a strong and lasting connection between dealers and their customers long after the sale. We are very excited to continue building on the program’s success with AutoNation,” Joe Verbrugge, executive vice president and division president of Connected Vehicle for SiriusXM, said in a statement.

“When the product is installed in the vehicle, it gives the consumer a great view of what’s going on in their vehicle,” Cannon said.

“The bottom line is customers like the product. We like it because it gives us insight to when they’re going to need service or what we can do to help them. It’s highly personalized. … Our brand is about delivering a great customer experience, and this is just one more way to do that.”

Ford cuts Fiesta production on falling UK demand

FRANKFURT — Ford has cut production of the Fiesta small hatchback at its plant in Cologne, Germany, in reaction to factors including a drop in UK sales. The model is the best-selling car in Europe’s second largest market.

Ford will reduce Fiesta production to four days a week, down from five, at the plant in a move that will affect 2,200 workers. The reduced output is expected to last until year-end, with a review in May, a Ford spokesman told Automotive News Europe.

“Southern Europe and the United Kingdom are seeing weaker demand [for the Fiesta], leading to the need to adjust production,” the spokesman said.

Overall sales of new cars in the UK fell 7.3 percent in January as consumers held back from big purchases due to factors including ongoing economic uncertainty following Brexit.

The Cologne plant produces 1,150 Fiestas a day, with a third of that output going to the UK.

Ford builds the Fiesta alongside the StreetScooter Work XL electric commercial van in Cologne, according to the Automotive News Europe Assembly Plant Map.