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Coping with Economy

Auto dealers trying to accelerate sales

January 18, 2009
By RICHARD NILSEN/The Leader-Herald

With domestic and imported car sales showing significant declines nationally, local auto sellers are trying to cope during the slow economy.

U.S auto sales dropped 36 percent in December.

At Brown's Ford in Johnstown, Jeff Brown said business was off perhaps 10 percent in December 2008 compared to December 2007.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Derek Brown, co-owner of Brown’s Ford in Johnstown, points to the sticker on a 2009 Ford Focus in the showroom of the business Thursday.

But he said bad weather and lower gas prices are giving truck and SUV sales an unexpected boost.

"We're actually doing good truck and [sport utility vehicle] sales," Brown said Tuesday.

Alan Rose of Rose Buick Pontiac GMC in Gloversville said since he started working at the dealership in 1971, this is the worst he's seen new auto sales.

However, winter is always a down time for sales, he said.

"Desire buying happens in the spring," he said. "Hopefully, by that time [President-elect Obama's] economic stimulus package will be in place."

Rose said he thinks the market has "seen the bottom" of the recession, and things should pick up by spring.

But the lack of financing, especially for dealerships, is problematic, he said.

"Approximately 85 percent of GM dealers in the U.S. are [General Motors Acceptance Corp.] financed," he said. "GMAC lost billions last year. This has caused a dealership credit-availability problem - credit is no longer readily available."

Rose said while sometimes the local economy is insulated from national problems, that isn't true with auto sales.

"This affects us locally," he said.

GM and other automakers are working on economy cars, hybrids and even electric vehicles.

GM on Jan. 5 unveiled more plans for the Chevrolet Volt electric car. The Volt is designed to plug into a standard wall outlet and travel 40 miles on battery power alone.

Drop in sales

General Motors, Ford, American Honda and Toyota USA all reported declines of more than 31 percent in December.

Chrysler experienced a plummeting 53.1 percent drop when comparing December 2008 and 2007 sales.

For all of 2008, BMW dropped 9.7 percent, Daimler (Mercedes, Smart and Maybach) fell 1.5 percent, Isuzu lost 33 percent and Mitsubishi, 24.6 percent.

Nissan was down 10.9 percent, Porsche had an even 25 percent loss and Volkswagen sank 4.4 percent.

Registrations up

The Eastern New York Coalition of Automobile Retailers, which represents about 90 domestic and foreign auto dealers, reported December registrations filed for new owners were actually up compared with December 2007.

"I don't know if those are new or used car sales," said group President Deborah Dorman. "But the figures are up 31 percent over November and up 19 percent over December 2007."

Dorman said she knew some dealers are "hanging by a thread" and others are "doing OK."

"Credit is starting to ease up," she said. "With all the incentives dealers are running, this may be the best time ever to buy a car."



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