Cars on the climb

Vehicles in the Sims Buick-GMC-Nissan Warren lot were covered with snow, but it didn’t stop salesman Carl Holbrook from leading a group of cold-braving customers outside for a look at paint colors. Inside a young couple were reviewed pricing and a few minutes later 21-year-old military man Drew Mansfield and his grandmother drove off in a new Nissan Rogue.

The busy dealership seemed to be off to a positive year start Feb. 5; the good fortune is being carried over from a stellar 2013. Momentum has been steadily increasing in auto sales since the recession caused them nosedive in 2008.

This glimpse into the auto industry’s 2013 and projections for 2014 is just part of what readers will find Wednesday when the final section of this year’s business outlook is published. The sections give readers a glance at what is “in the pipeline” for area business.

“I think a lot has to do with the economy. It’s a big indicator to me that our economy is doing better,” said Russ Banks, owner of R.D. Banks Chevrolet in Champion.

If he is correct, following the sales records of the Detroit Three – GM, Ford and Chrysler – should lead to a prosperous year. All three were up. Banks said his sales were increased 28 percent from 2013.

“We had a great year,” he said. “I think there were a lot of pent up buyers out there.”

GM sold 2.8 million vehicles in the United States in 2013, with retail sales up 11 percent and total sales up seven percent compared with 2012.

“2013 was the year that GM and the auto industry put the last traces of the recession in the rearview mirror, so now we can devote our full attention to the things that matter most to customers: compelling design, world-class quality and delivering the best ownership experience in the business,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president, U.S. sales operations.

It was the best-year so far for sales of the Cruze. John Maze, General manager of Diane Sauer Chevrolet, said this is because the vehicle offers great features, safety and a good price point.

“People come in and they see the quality and its not all down to the pricing,” he said. “Every buyer comes in and has that one special thing in mind.”

Overall sales were up both in new and used cars for Diane Sauer Chevrolet.

“A lot of it is that obviously the economy has improved,” Maze said.

The economy benefited Chrysler Group as their sales improved by nine percent in 2013. For 45 months the brand saw sales consecutively grow. In particular their Ram Truck brand did excellent with a 22 percent increase in 2013.

Beyond this, Ford continued to outshine others as the best selling brand for the fourth consecutive year. With 2.4 million vehicles sold in 2013, Ford saw double digit increases across their lineup – cars up 12, utilities up 13 percent, and trucks up 17 percent.

“We saw strong growth across the entire Ford lineup and made significant gains in the import-dominated coastal markets,” said John Felice, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “Strong demand for our new cars, utilities, hybrids and trucks provided Ford with the largest share point gain of any full-line automaker in 2013.”

Domestic brands were not alone in their success though. Sims Buick-GMC-Nissan saw increases in not only their domestic vehicle sales, but also in foreign brands.

“We were probably up across the board,” Sales Manager Tom Gagliano said, estimating the increase to be somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.

While the company’s GMC and Buick vehicles are easier sells, he said the stigma of buying foreign cars in the area, once dominated by Delphi pride, has been fading.

“People are not as opposed to buying foreign as they used to be,” he said, noting that many Nissan vehicles are assembled in the states.

Nissan ended the year up 9.4 percent in sales with 1.2 million vehicles sold in the United States alone. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. reported even greater total sales for 2013. Over 1.5 million vehicles rolled off the lot, an increase of 7.2 percent for the year and the second-best result in company history.

Apostolakis Honda saw a 12 percent increase in sales over 2012, selling 599 new Honda vehicles and 188 Mazdas.

“We had a record breaking year this year. For Honda to be here 37 years, this is a pretty banner year,” said General Manager Corky Allison.

Improved gas mileage and price points were what he said helped to drive sales along with technology features. Overall though he agreed that is comes back to the economy.

“I think at some point people had a pretty good outlook on the economy” he said.

All the dealers are hoping the recession mentality with continue to slough off in 2014 as they are expecting the upward trend of sales to continue.