Local Car Sales Roar Back

ST. MARYS — Local car dealerships saw an increase in sales during what some believe will be a year that brings back the vitality of the car market after a few rough recession years.

Jason Black, of Bud’s Chevrolet Buick, said the car market is “exploding.”

“This is going to be a huge year,” he said. “You’re looking pre-recession numbers, really. Nobody’s purchased cars in last three to four years, which means cars on the road are averaging 10 years. There’s only so much life in these cars.”

Black said the manufacturers are all now competing for the market share, while the dealership reports the best January they’ve had in the last four years.

Black said the dealer has hired throughout the building for sales and even people to wash cars.

Rick Green, of St. Marys Chrysler Dodge Jeep, said that while the dealership was only a month and a half into the year, the numbers were positive.

“Sales were decent for January overall,” Green said. “Used cars are steady.”

Traditionally January and February are slow, he said, with March through June being the biggest selling months. However a lot of that depends on the weather.

“So much is dependent on weather, and it’s been colder than average,” Green said. “But overall it’s strong, and I’m optimistic.”

One good indicator, he said, was that banks seem to be “loosening up” their requirements to get a car loan. With some lower credit scores being approved, Black said that is opening opportunities for people who may have been turned down four to five years ago.

“They’re not being as stringent, not like ‘08 or ‘09 when you had to be gold-plated to get a loan,” Green said.

Steve Heckman, with Platinum Auto Group, Inc., also said sales have picked up a lot since tax money since tax money came out.

“They picked up big time since last week,” Heckman said. “This is always the busiest time of year.”

According to the National Automobile Dealer’s Association, the U.S. auto industry sold more than 1 million vehicles in January, a 14.3 percent increase from January 2012.

Ford gained market share, which NADA said was fueled by the Ford Fusion and Escape, a hybrid and a fuel efficient car.

Black agreed he’s also seen people looking for fuel efficient vehicles, although in Mercer and Auglaize counties, he said trucks remain popular.

Black said the news is good not just for the dealerships, but for the nation. General Motors, he pointed out, had three consecutive years of profits and is the third largest employer in Ohio behind agriculture and Walmart, so he sees the news as positive no matter which cars people buy.

“There’s a lot of automotive plants here,” Black said. “They’re all extremely busy. Especially with Honda an hour away.”

As for whether the car-cession is over, a look at U.S. Census data shows a steady but not sharp gain.

Pre-recession, U.S. Census data shows total vehicle sales topped out in 2006 at $445 billion, before crashing to $274 billion two years later — a 49 percent drop. That essentially cut car sales in half, in a ripple effect that hit jobs in 2009 cutting them by a corresponding 46 percent.

In 2006, before the crash, the number of employees in motor vehicle manufacturing and parts was hovering just under 1.1 million, a number that steeply declined during the next three years, when it hit a low in July 2009, at 623,900 people, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed.

The preliminary numbers for January 2013 showed 786,500 employees in the auto industry, up approximately 40,000 from last January.