Utah auto dealers seeing an increase in sales

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As you know, Congress has agreed to help out the nation's automobile manufacturers by approving $17.5 billion in loan guarantees. The hope is that the money will provide some breathing room until the industry turns around.

Here in Utah, the thinking is the auto companies will survive and will be in a much better situation in just a few months.

Customers can sit in the driver's seat or closely examine what's under the hood at the 2009 Utah International Auto Expo in Sandy. Nearly 400 brand new models are on display for the four-day show.

Automakers are experiencing tough times right now, but attendance figures at many of the auto shows around the country have been strong. That's a good sign because people who attend these shows, often head to the showrooms soon after, and buy a new vehicle.

Dealers here in Utah say they're already seeing a slight turnaround compared to a few months ago. "Quite frankly, consumer confidence just kept people from being comfortable making a big purchase. Interestingly enough, since Christmas, we've seen a little bit of resurgence," said Brent Brown, president of the Brent Brown Auto Group.

Automobile manufacturers heard loud and clear from the consumer this summer that it's time to steer away from the gas guzzlers and start producing more fuel efficient vehicles. Nearly 20 percent of the models at the Utah show are hybrids.

Bailouts or not, the manufacturers must adapt, and these auto expos allow the public to see if the car makers have indeed changed.

"Our mantra along with our manufacturers is: ‘We're optimistic, but we're realistic.' So we know that if the auto industry if going to change, then we're going to be ready for it," said Marty Meecham, event manager for Motor Trend Auto Shows.

Dealers here and around the country believe the federal bailout will help get the industry back on its feet. Fears that a company might fail held many consumers back, not wanting to take the risk. But customers are beginning to come back to the showrooms, and dealers are optimistic about the months ahead.

"It's because everybody that we talk to feels like the second half of 2009 will be really good, s our feeling is the closer that we get to that second half, great," Brown said.

One reason for that optimism is a statistic showing the number of vehicles that are "retired" each year. Nationally, it's about 12 million. So with 12 million being taken off the road, many of those will be replaced, resulting in new sales.

You still have one more day to visit the auto show. It runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy.

E-mail: kmccord@ksl.com

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Keith McCord


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