Auto sales climbing: Is the industry coming back?

By Heather Sullivan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Is the auto industry bouncing back? Car sales have been climbing. July was one of the best months for U.S. auto sales since Cash for Clunkers last year. Will car buyers still be able to find deals?

More people are buying cars, taking advantage of summer deals and lenders loosening purse strings. Comparing July sales to July of last year, Daimler was up 7 percent, Chrysler rose 5 percent, and General Motors was up 25 percent. But Dominion Auto Group CEO Ted Linhart says they're not out of the woods yet.

Said Linhart, "You've got to understand we've had some pretty rough months last year. So 25 percent better than a disaster is better than a disaster, but its certainly not robust."

Goochland based CarMax reported selling more vehicles this spring for higher prices. And comparing July sales to June of this year, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, and Kia all reported gains. Even Toyota, after recalling millions of cars, sold 20 percent more cars in July.

Explained Linhart, "This has been an ongoing trend. When I talk to my friends in our business and others, we all use the phrase 'improving.'"

Cash for Clunkers got shoppers buying. But sales slowed when it ended. Said Linhart, "We had a decent July and August last year, better than we'd been having. Then October, September, November, we're dead. Completely dead."

Moving forward, manufacturers are already in price wars over soon to be released electric cars, like the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf. Explained Karl Brauer with, "That's going to be low enough to compete with again many other vehicles in the marketplace that don't offer this kind of alternative energy technology."

Experts say consumers can expect to see deals on cars and trucks for a while, such as factory discounts and low interest rates.

Linhart's secret: look for discounts in addition to a factory discount. He explained, "Always, always, always make sure you look at the manufacturer's incentives and then ask 'What are you doing out of your pocket to appreciate my business?' Because if you're only giving me what the manufacturer gives me, you didn't give me anything."

As for the future, JD Power and Associates recently increased its sales forecast to nearly 12 million cars this year. That's up from last year, but still below the nearly 13 million sold in 2008.

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