Car dealerships’ sales mixed | SteamboatToday.com

Car dealerships’ sales mixed

Soaring gasoline prices having bad, good, little effect on Steamboat businesses

Blythe Terrell

— Steamboat Springs car dealerships are reporting a scramble of effects from steadily climbing gasoline prices.

Cook Chevrolet is selling fewer large sport utility vehicles and more Subarus. Business is booming at Tom Reuter Cars, which sells only used vehicles. And Steamboat Motors is hearing talk about fuel prices but not seeing customers change their ways.

“We are seeing people trading in SUVs and big trucks and diesels and dropping down to commuter-type cars,” Cook Chevrolet Finance Director Ed Kleinberg said Thursday. “We’re also seeing folks that have large SUVs and trucks that are buying commuter cars to offset the cost of the diesel.”

The average price for regular unleaded gasoline in the Steamboat area was $4.03 a gallon Wednesday, according to AAA. The state average was $3.91. Diesel was higher across Steamboat, costing more than $4.70 a gallon at most stations.

Kleinberg said his friends in the industry are feeling the impact across the country. At his dealership, the Subaru Impreza and Outback are popular, as are the Chevrolet Cobalt and Aveo.

But in general, Kleinberg said, sales have slowed.

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“We’re trying to move whatever we can to stimulate business,” he said.

Kleinberg said sales are just now picking up after mud season, often a down time for the dealership.

“Typically, the strong selling season is May through October,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how June shakes out.”

Uncertain market

Tom Reuter, who owns Tom Reuter Cars, said life is pretty good at his dealership.

“Traditionally, used car sales tend to go up during a depression or a recession, like we’re in, as a result of people not wanting to buy new stuff,” Reuter said.

He is seeing more demand for Subarus and fuel-efficient vehicles and more people ditching SUVs and pickups, particularly those that run on diesel.

Diesel pickup sales are slowing at Steamboat Motors, too, General Manager Jeff Steinke said.

“The market on that is really soft right now,” Steinke said. “But it will firm back up when people get used to driving at $5 a gallon. We’ll forgive and forget.”

Steinke said his customers’ buying patterns have not changed.

Steamboat Motors is part of a national program offering $2.99-a-gallon gas for some Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles for three years. Steinke has seen some interest in that program, he said, but people still have bought whatever vehicle meets their needs and preferences.

As gas prices increased, he bought a used Toyota Corolla to sell. The vehicle has 21,000 miles on it and had been sitting on the lot for 38 days as of Thursday. He has several Ford Focuses that he hasn’t been able to move, either.

“I’m confused,” he said.

Steamboat Motors’ most recent sales were a Ford F-450 diesel truck and several Jeep-brand vehicles. Actually, Steinke said, now is a good time for buyers to grab a diesel truck at a much lower than normal price.

“In a couple of months, when (the market) corrects itself – because it always does – they’re going to go back up,” he said.

Steinke said drivers really aren’t paying that much more for gasoline. People complaining about spending $80 a tank were probably spending $65 before, he said. It’s a matter of perception and the media sensationalizing the issue, Steinke said.

Either way, Kleinberg said Cook Chevrolet is feeling a change.

“It’s a pervasive problem,” he said. “It’s changing the complexion of the industry all over the country. We’re doing whatever we can to make every deal we can.”

– To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234

or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com

Fuel-saving advice

– Use the lowest grade of gas your car can take.

– Slow down. For every mile you drive above 55 mph, your fuel economy drops by 2 percent.

– Drive in the highest possible gear at the lowest possible speed. The slower the engine turns, the less gas is used.

– Don’t accelerate when driving uphill – it makes mileage per gallon drop.

– Brake less by anticipating stops.

– Don’t drive with racks and other outdoors gear until you need to use them. Drag from this gear can reduce mileage per gallon by up to 5 percent.

– Clean out the trunk. Every 100 pounds in the trunk can cut fuel economy by 1 precent to 2 percent.

– Keep up with car maintenance. Be sure tire pressure is at the recommended PSI according to manufacturer’s specifications. Change the air filter regularly. Maintenance results in better gas mileage.

Source: AAA