Auto sales rising, electrics are coming

By Heather Sullivan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Auto sales are steadily rising and car dealers are feeling more optimistic about 2011. Meanwhile the industry is about to change as electric cars will hit the market next year.

After car sales slumped during the recession, they're starting to rev up for an incline. Sales are projected to rise from just under 12 million cars sold this year, to nearly 13 million next year, and nearly 15 million in 2012.

"We're all in the midst of a comeback. It's just how slow will it be? Are we back to where we'd like to be? No. Is it better than it was? Yes. Is it encouraging? I think most of us feel 2011 will be pretty good in the auto industry," said Ted Linhart, CEO of Dominion Auto Group.

They say consumers, who put off buying a car to save money, are now needing new cars.

"The scrappage rate was very low the last couple years, meaning people held onto their cars. Some of what we're seeing is people replacing cars just because they really need to," Linhart said.

But the market is about to change. Many automakers will roll out electric cars next year. Richmond is one of 19 markets where Ford chose to sell its all-electric Ford Focus because Richmonders are already buying hybrids.

"We're going to be right around 100 miles in range. Charging time will depend on whether it's a 240 volt source or 120. 6-8 hours on 240, probably some thing like 14 to 16 hours on a 120 volt circuit," said Ron Kody, owner of Richmond Ford Lincoln Mercury.

"We're going to move the entire industry from miles per gallon to cost per mile, because without gasoline you have no miles per gallon," Linhart said.

Drivers will need access to charging stations, which are slowing coming, and prices for cars have not yet been set. But dealers expect electrics to sell.

"I think they'll be very easy to sell, but we're always going to be back to that one question, price," Kody stated.

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