Auto Sales Growing Again

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If the experts are right in their predictions, 2012 may be the best year for car sales in five years, and 2013 could be even better.

Analysts estimate 14.5 million cars and trucks were sold in 2012, and that would mark the third consecutive year sales rose by more than 10 percent.

That kind of growth hasn't been seen since the 1970s, and after more than a quarter century in car sales, Dan Pahl has seen it all.

"We had people lined up waiting outside the door waiting with a number in their hand to buy a car," Pahl said. "I've seen it in the fall of '08 when things just rock bottomed out, and the showroom was empty."

Sales have been increasing steadily at Sundance Chevrolet in Grand Ledge over the past couple of years though, much like the rest of the country, and 2012 is shaping up to be the best year since 2007.

"Banks were more cooperative, I think consumer's confidence is definitely on a strong rebound, they feel more confident in buying a car now, inventories are great right now, just a lot of good things happening all around us," Pahl said.

Analysts predict it will be even better this year. Sales could top 15 million cars thanks to drivers eager to turn in older models and opt for a new generation with better mileage.

"A lot of new products are coming out, so we'll see how they impact the market," Sundance New Sales Manager Joe Hanks said. "I just think the overall economy has been less of a scare to consumers, and as time goes by they feel more comfortable with it and more comfortable spending."

At Capital Honda in Okemos they expect 2013 sales to be driven by technological upgrades to even entry level models, including rear-view cameras and wireless bluetooth on every 2013 Honda model.

"The LX models have about $1,500 more technology put into the vehicles," Capital Honda Salesperson of the Year Sam VanDam said. "The price went up about $200. So you get a lot of nice amenities with the '13s that you just didn't in years' past."

Foreign or domestic, dealerships just hope to get even more people in the driver's seat.

"If 2013 is as good as '12, I'm tickled," Pahl said. "If it's even better, I'm ready to play the game."

Truck sales are expected to be especially big in 2013, as more commercial businesses feel comfortable buying equipment again.

Final auto sales reports for December will be released Thursday.

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