Auto industry has positive news

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Our guess is, almost everyone has become tired of hearing the same concerns about whether Colorado Springs and El Paso County, not to mention the state as a whole, are adding enough jobs to make the economy stronger.

Sure, jobs are important. Nobody’s questioning that. But we know people in the community who would like other information that might provide a sharper picture of how our area and Colorado are faring.

We’ve found a fresh answer — and it’s highly encouraging.

This news comes from the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, which reports that new-car registrations in the state leaped in 2012 to 158,630, a 22 percent increase over the total of 130,179 in 2011. Used-car registrations (computed for vehicles seven years old and newer) also moved upward, from 165,992 in 2011 to 170,099 in 2012.

But wait, some skeptics might say. That’s just the statewide statistics. We’re more interested in what’s happening in our market.

No problem. El Paso County has even more impressive data. For all of 2012, the county’s new-car registrations came to 22,265 — better than any year since 2007, before the recession struck. And since the economy began to turn around, that total has risen from 14,341 in 2009 to 17,720 in 2011, followed by the gain of 4,500-plus in 2012 that calculates to a 25.6 percent increase, even better than the state as a whole.

And from all indications, despite the ominous prospects for sequestration and broad-based government spending cuts, the momentum hasn’t subsided in the new year.

El Paso County already has reported 2,034 new-car registrations in January, slightly better than the 2,027 in January 2012 — but nearly 55 percent ahead of the 1,316 in January 2011.

The implications are far-reaching, and even a pessimist would have to call them hopeful. If more and more people feel good enough about their personal situations to purchase a new car or truck, that obviously means more business for the dealerships and more tax revenue for the state. But it also means consumers clearly are willing to make big spending decisions, which speaks well for the state’s psychological well-being.

Let’s remember, too, that El Paso County produced those uplifting 2012 results for automobile dealers despite the tragic Waldo Canyon fire, which delivered a serious blow to all kinds of businesses, entrepreneurs and residents throughout our area. Yet, by the fourth quarter, those new-car totals for the county skyrocketed month-to-month over the previous year by 33 percent in October, 42 percent in November and 24 percent in December.

Does this suggest that we’re putting too much emphasis on job growth (or lack thereof) in analyzing the health of our local economy? It definitely seems that way. Yes, we still need more jobs. But that doesn’t mean we’re stagnant. Home sales, by the way, also are trending upward even during the winter months.

Obviously, it’s still important for Colorado Springs business and political leaders to be thinking about and planning for our future. We can’t stop talking about pushing residential and commercial development, improving higher education and giving start-up companies every chance to succeed.

But along with all that, when you see new, solid data as favorable as what’s coming from the auto industry, you have to feel optimistic about the year to come.