US automakers issue dismal sales reports - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

US automakers issue dismal sales reports

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By Len Kiese - bio | email

January 5, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - United States automakers delivered more unsettling news Monday. Their sales are down as much as 53-percent. South Georgia dealerships say they're no exception. Times are hard and people just aren't buying new like they used to.

Despite signs advertising sale events and shiny new cars on display by the road, 2009 is off to an uncertain start for car dealerships nationwide. "The car business is bad," said Bill Chaffin, "all of us are off 30, 40 percent and it's a struggle in this business today."

Chaffin is the General Manager for Albany Lincoln Mercury. "I've never ever seen it like this," said Chaffin.

Getting new cars off the lot is tough these days. "Consumer confidence I think is the big thing. I don't believe the stuff they had going on on the hill was good for any of us--the bailout, fear of bankruptcy, and the economy is just not good," said Chaffin.

The numbers show it.  2008 was the worst year for the U.S. Auto market in more than 15 years. GM, Toyota, Honda and Ford all saw a decline in sales of more than 30 percent last month. Chrysler's sales dropped more than 50 percent.

Albany Car dealers are now having to turn their attention from new to older. "The used car is going to be where the money is made at. I don't think it's going to be with the new cars," said Chaffin.

While new car sales are down, we checked with a couple of used car dealerships in Albany that say things are ok for them right now. "We've been holding steady," said Billy Chambers.

Billy Chambers with Bill Chambers Motors says a lot of it comes down to financing. "It really hasn't stopped for us. The stigma for new car dealers is that financing isn't available and there is," said Chambers.

"If the customer only knew--it's a buyers market. It is absolutely a buyer's market," said Chaffin.

Right now customers can get good deals on used cars with extended warranties. Chaffin says it will be those sales that get them through and keep them optimistic. "We're very strong financially so we can weather this storm and hopefully in 2010 we can get back to where it was," said Chaffin.

To make it like it was and get to 2010 it will take getting through what is expected to be a tough 2009.

Other factors like the housing crisis are having a domino effect on the auto industry. Right now financial indicators show that the auto sales drop will bottom out in late spring or early summer, flatten out for the rest of the year, and then begin a rebound next year.

Because of the crisis, many automakers are cutting production and jobs. GM and Chrysler recently received billions in federal loans they hope will keep them afloat until things turn around.

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