New car sales up at some Augusta dealers

By: Gene Petriello Email
By: Gene Petriello Email

News 12 First at Five; December 2, 2008

AIKEN CTY, S.C. --- Nationally, GM and Ford reported big drops in sales in November, but that's a trend that seems to be missing in Augusta. Some dealers tell us they actually sold more new cars this November compared to last year. We're On Your Side with why.

Believe it or not, dealers tell me it's the relatively stronger Augusta economy that's pumping up those new car sales. But, if you ask those dealers about the used cars on the lot -- well, that's a much different story.

Jimmy Scott is just trying to sell any car he can. "Huge discounts, big rebates ends up with big saving for the customers," says Jimmy. He's the General Sales Manager at Henna Chevy on Richland Avenue in Aiken.

Laura McKenzie is just trying to upgrade. "Some of the new conveniences but at a reasonable price within the budget range," says Laura.

Jimmy and Laura, sounds like a winning combination, right? Well, not so fast. Laura's been on a lot of lots like the one she was at on Tuesday, dead ones. "The salesmen come running out to you by the time you pull up because everyone is looking for a sale," says Laura.

"The same numbers have been very uncertain. We had a very lousy October," says Jimmy. But, that lousy October turned into a solid November. He says, Henna saw about a 20% increase in new car sales. A jump he called, "a pleasant surprise."

Even with that solid November though, the number of cars coming off the lot still isn't great. And, neither is Laura's consumer confidence level. "Low... very low," says Laura.

It's consumers who have low confidence on the big gas guzzlers too. They've been sitting on the lot for months, along with those used cars.

Now comes that big bailout everyone is talking about. "There may be a trickle down effect," says Jimmy. "It may affect us, but then again, we don't know."

"Maybe it should have went back to the people," says Laura. "It's our money. We should have gotten it back to spend on vehicles."

So, as the auto industry tried to get the wheels back on, Laura's just trying to get a new set of wheels. Meanwhile, Jimmy is just wheelin' and dealin'.

Several dealers News 12 talked to say used car sales are way down and that's the case just about everywhere. Of course, if any of the Big Three go under, it would mean less cars to choose from and maybe higher prices again. That's something we'll be watching for.


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