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Car salesmen have long ranked among the most universally reviled members of society, just south of real estate agents and lawyers. But the past decade has seen the plaid sports jacket and gold chain crowd doing much to bolster their image, with many auto dealers building impressive online reputations by cultivating positive customer feedback.

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A consulting firm has boosted its auto sales estimate for 2012 to 14.3 million vehicles, but the big news is that, in aggregate, dealers are again making money selling cars.

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We've seen it before and we'll see it again, quite possibly before the end of the year: A luxury brand padding its numbers with questionable "sales." This time it's BMW, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, although there have been rumors of arch-rival Mercedes-Benz doing the same thing in past years.

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Yankun Hou is an auto industry analyst at UBS AG who has won awards for his ability to predict the market. How is he so good at seeing the future of the industry? Satellite imaging.

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If you're a recent Chevrolet Volt buyer and noticed you've been getting a few more miles out of your all-electric range than you expected, you might've gotten next year's version of the extended-range plug-in.

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Eight General Motors dealers are being sued by the automaker, which is seeking to revoke their franchises and purchase the dealerships assets in the wake of poor 2011 sales. According to Automotive News, the dealers are among the 700 who filed for arbitration when GM targeted them for closure during its 2009 bankruptcy.

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The Detroit News reports used small-car prices are plummeting right along with fuel prices. The news comes courtesy of a National Automobile Dealers Association study, which says gas prices have dropped an average of 3.5 percent compared to last year. In yet another shocking reminder of just how short buyers' memories can be, analysts predict light trucks will take home the largest share of car sales this month. Even so, used car sales in general are expected to fall off by around two percent. T

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The Detroit News reports used small-car prices are plummeting right along with fuel prices. The news comes courtesy of a National Automobile Dealers Association study, which says gas prices have dropped an average of 3.5 percent compared to last year. In yet another shocking reminder of just how short buyers' memories can be, analysts predict light trucks will take home the largest share of car sales this month. Even so, used car sales in general are expected to fall off by around two percent. T

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J.D. Power and Associates created the Power Information Network (PIN) in 1993 to collect and analyze dealer transactions on new and used cars. Power uses the data from more than 10,000 dealerships to "improve business for automotive dealers, manufacturers, lenders, and other companies in the industry." The wider use of consumer data captured at the point-of-sale is what concerns dealers, and it's probably that reasoning which has led to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) partneri

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Mercedes-Benz dealers heavily marking up service products? You don't say.

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Federal Trade Commission increases enforcement of dealerships that make deceptive promises

The sales pitch goes something like this on the showroom floor: A car salesman makes an enticing promise. "We'll pay off your car loan, no mater how much you owe!" Or "upside down on your current loan? We'll pay off your trade."

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When it comes to handing out awards, nobody works harder than J.D. Power. With surveys concocted to measure dependability, brand reputation, customer retention, quality, and whatever else the company can dream up, we sometimes wonder whether the company's plaudits aren't becoming a little like "participant" medals awarded at the end of kids' sports seasons.

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Nissan will increase the number of European car dealers carrying Leaf electric vehicles tenfold – to 1,000 – by the end of the year and will sell the car in two dozen European markets by 2013, all part of the Japanese automaker's plan to boost Leaf sales overseas.

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GM Inside News has obtained a letter from Russel Clark, Director of Marketing for Chevrolet small cars, small utilities and performance cars, to dealers informing them that shipments of all 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 produced to date are being held by General Motors for a "quality assessment."

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A Federal judge will allow some 75 Chrysler dealers to proceed with a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department, according to Automotive News. The dealers insist that the government violated the Fifth Amendment in administrating the Chrysler bankruptcy when it terminated their dealership franchises.

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To save operation costs, Coda Automotive will sell its battery-electric sedans through franchised dealers and not at its so-called "experience centers" that are designed to educate the public about EVs, Automotive News reported.

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Car dealers have a strange and oftentimes contentious relationship with the carmakers. Stories of automakers shoveling unsaleable models down the pipeline with unreasonable expectations are legion in the car sales world. With the number of family-owned, single-brand dealerships dwindling, dealers often field competing franchises. The concept of loyalty is as quaint as a Lincoln Town Car. So it's worth noting the automotive brands that are actually liked by the guys selling them.

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Chevrolet dealers in some U.S. markets are turning away Chevrolet Volts that General Motors is allocating to them, indicating that consumers remain concerned that the extended-range plug-in vehicles pose an additional safety risk relative to convention cars, are too expensive or are otherwise not as desired as GM thinks, Automotive News (subs. req.) reported.

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TrueCar has attracted much unwanted attention recently, drawing the ire of Honda and torquing off regulators in several states. In response, the company has announced a series of changes to its business model, designed to address the legality of its service, according to a report in Automotive News.

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What exactly is TrueCar? That's the question behind recent conflicts between the company and a growing list of foes, which include dealership organizations, automakers and regulators in at least three states.

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The Detroit News reports that Chevrolet may take a page out of the Disney playbook to improve the automaker's customer service and its appeal in the California market.

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