WARREN - As a former worker in the Trumbull County Auditor's office, Weathersfield resident Bob Stanton is accutsomed to crunching the numbers when it comes to a major expense like buying a vehicle.
That's why when he finally reached agreement on a 2011 Ford Ranger XLT pickup truck at Mark Thomas Ford in Cortland, he knew he had to grab it - a feeling area auto dealers say enough auto shoppers will share to make 2012 a good sales year.
"It was a discontinued model they're trying to get rid of. With the rebate and so forth, I couldn't pass up the opportunity," Stanton said last week as he took the keys.
Tribune Chronicle / Larry Ringler
The new 2013 Chevrolet Malibu attracts a crowd Saturday at the Cleveland Auto Show.
Stanton had another reason to trade in his GMC for a new ride - he needed one. With the national average age of vehicles at a record 10.8 years, dealers believe necessity will drive more truck buyers to shrug off rising gasoline prices and enter showrooms.
"A lot of truck owners haven't replaced their trucks, mainly because of the economy. It's a vehicle they use in their business. Those people are coming back, even though fuel economy is a concern," said Bill Rutledge, new-car sales manager at Diane Sauer Chevrolet, which led Trumbull County dealers in new and used sales in January with 101, although that was down 44.5 percent from January 2011.
Auto consulting and rating firm J.D. Power and Associates backs up the optimism, raising its forecast for 2012 U.S. sales to 14 million from 13.8 million. Sales were 12.8 million in 2011.
Special incentives linked to the Cleveland Auto Show that started Saturday are helping, according to Steve Bott, sales manager at Mark Thomas Ford, which topped Trumbull County dealers in sales gain in January with a 27.8 percent increase on 46 new and used autos.
"It's a good time to buy because manufacturers put incentives with the auto show. People think they'll wait, but they call it auto show bonus cash for a reason," he said.
Automakers are showing off new vehicles in showrooms and the Cleveland show.
Ford has a new Escape small sport utility vehicle, along with an electric Focus compact car, the 2013 Fusion, including plug-in hybrid, and the all-new C-Max, billed as a compact multi-purpose vehicle.
Chevrolet is trotting out the 2013 Eco version of its popular midsize Malibu that's projected to get 25 miles per gallon in the city and 37 on the highway. It also will display the Sonic RS in Cleveland and is expected to bring the Chevy Spark.
One part of the buying process that all automakers are facing is high gas prices. That's where the Chevrolet Cruze stands tall.
The Lordstown-built compact car, topping 42 miles per gallon for the Eco model, was the area's most popular new car last year at 2,045 sales, beating runnerup Chevrolet Malibu's 1,908 total.
The complex is testing a diesel Cruze that GM hopes will give the car even broader appeal.
Rutledge pointed to the new subcompact Sonic as another offering for fuel efficiency buyers, adding the dealership is confident of a good year, based on products and incentives.
Bott touted Ford's EcoBoost engine, a 2 litre turbocharged gasoline engine that is designed to deliver performance and fuel economy without the added cost of electric-gas hybrid technology.
The engine will get the compact up to 40 miles per gallon, while boosting the F150 pickup truck to 24 mpg versus 16, he said.
The area's largest Chrysler and Dodger dealer, Bob & Chuck Eddy Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Austintown, plans to play in the gas miser field in late spring with its new Dodge Dart that gets 40-plus miles per gallon, General Sales Manager Mike Friend said.
The dealership also is the exclusive seller of Italy's Fiat, which controls Dodge and has its own lineup of gas sippers.
Friend said the dealership's confidence for a good year is shown by its inventory of 600 new vehicles.