SPRINGVILLE — The United States automotive industry continued to grow in 2013, hitting a six-year high. After finishing with the highest post-recession sales numbers in 2012, the industry grew roughly 8 percent in 2013, selling 15.6 million vehicles nationally. The annual sales increase was seen locally, as well. Emerling Ford and Chrysler Dodge Jeep, and Johnson Chevrolet-Buick, both in Springville, all saw sales increases.
“Throughout the entire year, we increased our sales from 2012; ... 2013 went extremely well,” said Mike Evans, Internet Manager for Johnson Chevrolet-Buick, located on Cascade Drive in Springville. Although Evans declined to release the exact sale figures for 2013, Internet Sales and Public Relations Manager Delaney Peters of Emerling Ford said that his dealership’s sales were comparable to Ford’s national sales numbers, that were up 13 percent from 2012.
A wide range of factors have lead to the strong sales numbers, in the last two years.
Perhaps the biggest factor is that consumers are more willing to spend money than during the recession, Evans said. “There was a time when people wanted to keep their money close and not really invest in a new vehicle. Instead, they would keep their money in their pockets and drive a car until it dies,” he said. “I think a confidence has been building, with people in the [automotive] market.”
Another factor of consumer spending is the quality of most new cars. Automakers are willing to make changes to give consumers what they want in a vehicle.
“Chevy is being more proactive and putting things in vehicles that people really want. There have been a lot of years where it’s just been the same car, over and over again; it’s just a new year. It seems like, as you go through 2012, to the ‘13, to the ’14 models, every year, something major changes, and for the better,” Evans noted.
Building on two consecutive years of increasing numbers, car dealers are projecting 2014 to continue the trend. Many of the reasons 2013 was a strong year will be factors again, according to sales predictors.
Instead of holding onto older models for the duration of a car’s life, consumers are willing to spend money on vehicles equipped with more customizable features and improved technology that pre-recession cars do not have. Nationally, the average age of a car on the road is just under 12 years. That statistic bodes well for 2014 numbers, but some national auto experts have expressed concern about what that means for long-term success in the market, worried that it is a cyclical trend and, within the decade, sales will decrease once again. Although it may be a concern in other regions, the lengthy average car life span doesn’t affect places like Western New York.
“No, I don’t have a fear of that,” said Peters, of the local climate. “If you look around, living in the Northeast, you don’t see a lot of cars that are 12 years old, and largely, it’s because of the rust; we just can’t keep [vehicles] running that long. The motor and transmission may be fine but everything around them won’t stay together. It’s not a problem of the vehicle; it’s just our environment, so [the car dealerships] tend to do well here.”
Perhaps the biggest sign that car dealers have confidence in the future of the automotive industry is that in 2013, Emerling expanded the company, by enlarging its fleet service shop and parts departments of the dealership on South Cascade Drive, as well as purchasing the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep dealership on Springville’s West Main Street. “We wouldn’t have purchased the dealership in [Springville] if there was a concern that there was going to be a downturn in the industry,” Peters explained.
Evan Emerling, son of the dealership’s founder Carl Emerling, is the head of the Chrysler dealership, and he believes that no matter what economy the dealership sells in, customer service will dictate how a dealership does.
“Obviously, there will be things that happen [in] the economy or the auto industry that are out of our control. If we just keep doing what we do, treat people the way we want to be treated, I think that we will always be able to keep our head above water,” he said.
“Especially in a small town, that’s super important. It is scary to think about what the economy could do, but as long as people have confidence that you will treat them fairly, and not take advantage of them, they will keep coming back to you.”