Stronger economy fuels hot car sales

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If new car registrations were the only economic indicator of success in El Paso County, they would show we’re speeding out of the recession.

The number of people purchasing new cars has increased substantially this year over last.

auto-salesEl Paso County residents registered 8,180 new cars in the first four months of 2013, compared with 6,768 in the first four months of 2012, according to Ann Winslow, executive director of the Colorado Springs Automobile Dealers Association.

The numbers mark a 20.8 percent increase in that time frame.

April alone saw a 40.9 percent spike over last year. This April, 2,328 cars were newly registered in El Paso County, compared with 1,652 last year.

“I hope things keep going like this,” Winslow said.

Winslow attributed the higher numbers to a “relatively” stable economy. Also, the prolonged recession created a pent-up demand for cars that is now being met. Further, people now have longer finance terms and easier access to credit, she said.

“For a while, if you were financing, terms were equivalent, so why not buy a new car?” asked Winslow. “It’s just as good a deal to buy a new car as a used car.”

John Adams, director of business development at Heuberger Subaru, said the business set a 25 percent increase as a healthy goal for the year. So far, Heuberger is tracking close to that.

After five months of 2013, Heuberger had sold 1,542 new Subarus, compared with 1,240 last year, a 24 percent increase.

As to why, Adams said, “Subaru has a great product.” Also, effects from the 2011 tsunami in Japan have subsided. The tsunami negatively affected parts manufacturing, he said.

“For example, an Outback, even though it may be made in America, that doesn’t mean the clock isn’t made in Japan,” Adams said. “There are a lot of issues they had to work with.”

Last year, the business sold 3,078 new vehicles. This year, “we’re projected to be in the 4,000 range,” Adams said.

Red Noland Cadillac is seeing a hot market, with a 36 percent increase in the first five months of this year over 2012, said Mike Jorgensen, president and partner. He attributed the increase to new models — the XTS and the ATS — with the ATS being the North American Car of the Year.

“Interest rates on auto loans are still great, and that helps fuel it,” Jorgensen said. “There’s also great value in trading-in.”

Statewide, the same trend is true.

Through April, new vehicle registrations are up 16.3 percent over the same time period last year statewide, according to the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association (CADA). For the entire year, statewide sales of new vehicles saw a 21.9 percent increase in 2012 over 2011.

The first three months of this year showed an 18.3 percent increase, said Tim Jackson, CADA president, adding: “We’re not back to the all-time highs, but we’ve made a lot of progress.”

“I personally think that the No. 1 economic indicator that’s a requisite for increased car sales is consumer confidence,” Jackson added. “This is the highest level of consumer confidence in seven years.”

Another incentive to consumers is that people can trade out of what they’re driving, whether they have a lease or a loan, and trade into a newer vehicle for less money, Jackson said.

“For the same amount of money, they’re able to get a lot more car,” he said.

Credit is easier to come by also, he said.

“Almost everybody can get approved for something,” he said.

Ford led new sales statewide, with 1,664 sold in the first four months, up 13.4 percent over last year’s 1,467, according to CADA figures. Next in demand were Toyota/Scion vehicles, with 1,609 sold in the first four months.

Subaru came next, with 1,393 sold, then Honda, with 1,109 sold. Chevrolet sold 995 vehicles during this time frame, followed by Nissan vehicles, with 859. Jeep vehicles were next, with 724 sales, and Kia followed with 443 sold. Ram and Hyundai had 434 and 432 sales, respectively.

The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association derives its numbers from Auto Outlook, a Malvern, Pa., independent automotive research firm.

By the numbers

New car registrations for the first four months, year by year, in El Paso County:

2009 — 4,457

2010 — 4,561

2011 — 5,345

2012 — 6,768

2013 — 8,180