Two local dealers were honored with significant national awards this month.

Ray Ciccolo, owner of the Village Auto Group, was named Time magazine’s Dealer of the Year for Massachusetts for exceptional performance. Village’s dealerships include Audi, Cadillac, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Porsche, and Volvo.

The award was made at last week’s National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, FL.

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Kevin Meehan of Imperial cars of Mendon was named one of six international recipients of the Ford Salute to Dealers award, a recognition established by Edsel Ford II in 2001.

Imperial sells US brands Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Ram.

The other winners came from Thailand,Turkey, Brazil, Kentucky, and Florida.

Long Shots to Make It

Bucking the established automotive order always is a gamble. That’s why it’s viewed as a copycat industry with many cookie-cutter models.

So we wish the diesel Chevrolet Cruze and the redesigned Toyota Tundra well as they tackle different areas of the marketplace—diesel power for the Cruze, and for the Tundra, the established pickup truck order of Detroit’s Big 3.

The Cruze faces a big challenge. Even diesel fans (and I’m one) have to admit they’re a tough sell in the United States. Some say it’s a holdover from the old days of smoky, smelly diesels, but I’d rather give the car-buying public a lot more credit.

Car people like diesels but they simply are not economically competitive right now because of two factors, the high price of diesel fuel and the higher initial cost of the diesel powertrain.

If the diesel Cruze were to top the mpg charts, that would be a major selling point. However, as introduced, it won’t offer additional miles per gallon. The gas-powered Eco version of the Cruze is rated at 42 mpg, the same as the diesel version is projected to achieve and the same as theVW Jetta against which it will compete.

US-made pickups are as entrenched in the America psyche as Coca-Cola. Toyota’s Tacoma has captured the midsize market, but the Tacoma hasn’t been able to displace Ford’s F-150 and Chevrolet’s Silverado at the top of the sales charts. Now the Ram (North American Truck of theYear) has solidified itself as No. 3, the spot Toyota, Honda, and Nissan would like to capture.

Give Toyota credit. The company won’t back down in its quest for a bigger US market share. The new Tundra keeps its proven engines choices—4.0-literV-6 and 4.6- and 5.7-literV-8s—and will package them in five trim levels, SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, and 1794.

The SR5 will be the volume version; the Platinum (urban cowpoke) and 1794 (Western trim) will be gussied-up to try and get some of those big pickup sales dollars.

Meanwhile, here are two tangential thoughts on pickups.

One is that I’ve never understood why the Honda Ridgeline, a gentleman’s pickup, never caught on.

The second is my ulterior and oft-voiced hope that someone/anyone will bring a compact diesel-powered pickup to the US market.

Going for the Aftermarket

The automotive aftermarket is a big business—about $70 billion worldwide—but the United States consumer buys differently from car owners in the rest of the world.

Mopar, the Chrysler and Fiat aftermarket arm, recently revealed its bestselling items here and abroad.

In the United States:

1) Side steps and running boards for pickup trucks and SUVs

2) JeepWrangler tops

3) Floor mats

4)Trailer hitches

5) Bed liners and tonneau covers

Elsewhere in the world (Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America):

1)Tom Tom Blue & Me navigation system, specifically designed for Alfa Romeo

2)Tow bars

3) Alloy wheels

4) Parking sensors

5) Floor mats

Used Car Prices to Stay High

Dealers at this month’s National Automobile Dealers Association Convention in Orlando, FL, were given many reasons why used-car prices are likely to stay high:

1) Increased credit availability

2) Housing and construction recovery

3) Improving employment picture

4) A predicted increase of 8 percent in inventory of units up to three years old, a positive sign but still 25 percent below the years 2007–2009.

5) Pent-up demand from buyers who traditionally purchase newer pre-owned vehicles.

Plum Crazy, Etc.

Chrysler is doing a limited production run in March of its iconic Plum Crazy color for the Dodge Challenger R/T and Challenger SRT8. That will be followed in May by a similar limited run of the Hemi Orange color for those two hemi-powered vehicles. …Sports fans may have noticed that Kia is a big advertiser of the NBA, NHL, NFL, and major international golf, tennis, and soccer events. Why? Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing, tells Automotive News that it’s because sports viewers are more likely to watch events live whereas other TV watchers are trending to use their DVRs and skipping past commercials