News Brief: March 15, 2012

Here's what we have our eye on today:

  • To stem declining sales, the once-burgeoning Buick will start offering aggressive leasing and service incentives for its 2012 lineup, according to Automotive News. The program includes a 24-month lease program, with $0 down; typically, Buick offers 36- to 39-month leases. In addition to the short-term lease, the program also includes free OnStar, satellite radio, oil changes and tire rotations for the lease's duration. Typically, free satellite radio subscriptions expire in the first three months of ownership, and complementary OnStar service ends after six months. Under the incentive plan, a 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist, with a power lumbar and remote starter, would cost $399 a month for 24 months, with $0 down. Currently, 24% of Buicks are leased, while the average luxury carmaker sees lease penetrations that typically exceed 50%, says Automotive News. Buick sales have declined over the past five months, which is currently the worst streak in the industry.
  • GM's former captive lending company, Ally Financial (formerly GMAC), has failed the Federal Reserve's latest round of “stress” testing, according to the Detroit Free Press. The stress test simulates another large recession — in this case, 13% unemployment and a 21% drop in housing prices — and under the scenario, Ally would not have sufficient capital to sustain itself. Ally is one of the biggest auto lenders in America, serving some 15 million car customers,. It's the preferred lender for new GM and Chrysler vehicles. The U.S. government currently owns about 74% of Ally and has invested $17.2 billion in propping up the institution.
  • Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne received nearly $19 million in stocks and compensation last year from Fiat SpA, according to Bloomberg News. Marchionne's salary is in line with other CEOs in the industry, says the newswire. As Chrysler's CEO, Marchionne received a grand total of $0 in compensation from the carmaker in 2011.
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