By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star
---- — An aging fleet, improving consumer confidence and better product lines were cited by local auto dealers Thursday to explain a big jump in sales nationwide for April.
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” said Tom Armao of Country Club Motors, which sells Chevrolets, Cadillacs and GMC trucks.
Armao cited the aging U.S. car fleet as a driver for that pent-up demand.
The average car on the road right now is 11.2 years old, and Armao said that just a few years ago, the average age was 7 or 8 years old.
Ford, GM, Chrysler and Nissan all reported double-digit U.S. sales increases last month, with truck sales leading the way. Ford’s sales increased 18 percent, with its F-Series pickup line gaining 24 percent.
Patrick Coleman, sales manager for Oneonta Ford, said his sales were up.
“We did see an increase of traffic, an increase in business,” he said, but he was reluctant to speculate about why. “To really pinpoint as to one reason why, I really couldn’t.”
At Chrysler, sales rose 11 percent, led by the Ram pickup, with a 49 percent sales increase. Mark Zimmerman of Royal Chrysler in Oneonta said the the increase was broad-based as that dealership.
“I would say evenly across the board we’re up,” he said. “Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and our used cars. Everything is just up.”
Zimmerman said the dealership hadn’t had a March or April nearly as good as this year’s since 2007 and 2008, respectively. He said that if he knew for sure why those months were so good, “I would try to duplicate that recipe for the month of May.”
“They’re not tire-kickers,” he said of recent buyers. “They’re coming out to buy a car. They know they want a car. They’re gonna buy a car.”
He also said the quality of the vehicles played a role, attributing the improvement to Fiat’s ownership of Chrysler.
“I’ve been at the store for 12½ years, and I can honestly say this is the best I’ve ever seen the product,” he said. “This is the most aggressive I’ve ever seen the advertising.”
GM saw an 11 percent sales jump, with Chevrolet Silverado pickup sales rising 28 percent for the month. Armao said that pickups are always big sellers in this region, but that the increase at his dealership had been across all models.
Nissan reported a 23 percent sales gain from April 2012. Honda sales rose 7 percent, led by the CR-V small crossover SUV, while Hyundai sales were up 2 percent on strong sales of the Elantra compact. The only laggards were Toyota, with a sales decline of 1 percent, and Volkswagen, with a drop of 10 percent.
Final numbers for the industry will be released Wednesday, and analysts expect the overall sales increase to be about 10 percent from last April. That would make it the best April since 2007.
The upswing came despite high unemployment and mixed data on other economic indicators.
Chrysler Group LLC said it sold 156,698 cars and trucks last month. Sales of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV increased 27 percent. Dodge sales rose 18 percent, with the Dart compact car posting its best month ever with sales of nearly 8,100.
Ford Motor Co. sold 212,584 cars and trucks. The F-series pickup remains the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. Sales totaled 59,000 in April. And sales of the redesigned Escape SUV rose 52 percent.
General Motors Co. reported sales of 237,646 cars and trucks. Even with gas prices on the decline, compact cars remained popular. Sales of the Chevy Cruze rose 21 percent.