2016 on record pace for local auto sales – Daytona Beach News-Journal

Posted: Saturday, May 07, 2016

DAYTONA BEACH — Volusia-Flagler area auto dealers sold a record number of new vehicles in 2015 and could be poised to sell even more this year.

One local dealership, Jon Hall Chevrolet in Daytona Beach, wound up becoming the fifth-highest volume retail seller of new Chevrolets in the nation last year.

The dealership sold 3,702 new cars and trucks, up from 2,921 in 2014, the most in its history.

“We had a record year (2015) and are coming off a very strong (2016 first) quarter as well. The market is red hot,” said Glenn “Bud” Ritchey Jr., the dealership’s vice president. “We had some model changes — especially the Malibu and Cruze — that were key for us.”

Ritchey also noted that pent-up demand for new vehicles, falling gas prices last year, accessible consumer credit, an improving economy with higher employment all helped increase sales at the local dealerships.

The large amount of construction in the area especially helped truck sales, Ritchey and other area auto dealers said.

Volusia-Flagler area auto dealers sold a combined total of 31,526 new vehicles in 2015, according to Experian, the most of any year it was able to provide, which date back to 2005.

Last year’s new vehicle sales for the two-county region were up 3.3 percent from 2014 when 30,297 new vehicles were sold.

New vehicle sales have risen locally each year since 2009 when dealers sold 14,752 new vehicles.

Nationally, new vehicle sales in 2015 rose nearly 6 percent, year-over-year, to 17.83 million — the first time new vehicle sales rose over 17 million since 2005, according to Wardsauto, a Michigan-based auto industry research firm.

National new vehicle sales have increased each year since 2009 when dealers sold 10.6 million new vehicles.

This year, through the first three months, Volusia-Flagler area dealers have sold 7,757 new vehicles, up 14.6 percent from the same period in 2015, according to Experian.

Area dealers say pent-up consumer demand is the key factor spurring the sales surge.

“Buyers skipped a cycle in the downturn, especially the small commercial businesses with a handful of people,” said Randy Dye, who owns several dealerships at Daytona International Auto Mall: Daytona Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram, the Daytona Ram Truck Center, Fiat of Daytona and the new Maserati Alfa Romeo of Daytona.

“With the economy improving, these people want, and in some cases need to, replace older vehicles they’ve kept too long,” he said.

Dye said the 1,678 new vehicles that his Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram dealership sold in 2015 was the most in a year since he became its owner in 1997. The dealership sold 1,609 new vehicles in 2014.

An aging U.S. fleet of light vehicles is also fueling the rise in sales. Michigan-based auto industry research firm IHS Automotive reported that the average age of the U.S. fleet of light vehicles last year was 11.6 years. That is the oldest age  since the company started tracking the metric in 2005.

Sean Snaith, a University of Central Florida economist, noted that auto registrations in Florida rose by an average of 11.8 percent a year between 2010 and 2014. He expects that growth rate to peak this year at 4.5 percent, before slowing to 2 percent growth in 2017 and 2018.

“The nature of pent-up demand is that once it’s vented, it’s gone,” Snaith said. “You then have to go back to counting on other economic fundamentals like job and wage growth. We have not seen the latter in Florida.”

He said auto manufacturers have stepped up incentive offers to “keep the party going.”

On the other hand, the influx of aging baby boomers retiring and moving to the Sunshine State from the Northeast and Midwest could keep new vehicle sales growing if that surge of newcomers can continue.

Both Flagler and Volusia counties set new record highs for numbers of residents in the latest Census Bureau counts. 

Gary Yeomans, a partner in several dealerships at the Auto Mall including Gary Yeomans Ford Lincoln, Daytona Nissan and Mercedes-Benz of Daytona, said he does not expect to see a drop in new car demand for a while.

“The U.S. fleet is the oldest it’s ever been and expected to rise (in age) slightly,” Yeomans said. “Gas prices, though rising now, are still reasonable. People are buying the small SUVs. Our Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue, we are selling all we can get.”

He also said that new home construction and major commercial projects underway in Daytona Beach, including the Tanger Outlets mall under construction on the east side of Interstate 95, across from the Auto Mall, are helping to fuel local consumer confidence.

“There is a positive outlook and that leads to car sales,” Yeomans said. “The area was lagging behind the rest of the state and we are playing catch up. We are a coastal community, one of the last with acres to build on in the state.”

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