The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 26, 2013

Automakers enjoy good year of sales

JOHNSTOWN — The numbers are in – 2012 was a great year for auto dealers. After the uncertainty of the 2008 auto bailout, carmakers are enjoying this five-year high in sales records.

“We’ve been increasing (sales) every year, even during the recession,” said Garrett Spangler, sales consultant at Spangler Subaru along Alvin Street in Richland Township. “We do expect an increase in sales in 2013.”

The dealer posted a 26 percent sales increase for last year and it keeps getting better, apparently.

“Subaru’s been a strong product,” he said. “We’ve reached record sales each year for the last four years.”

According to a recent study by Experian Automotive, the age of the average auto is 11 years old – it’s no longer the sleek and clean machine driven off the lot more than 10 winters ago. Many motorists are just one blown head gasket or broken tie rod away from a trip to the local auto dealer.

But Matt Smith, co-owner of Laurel Auto Group, said there’s much more to this windfall of new buyers than simply necessity.

“Interest rates are at an all-time low,” he said. “Fuel economy on many of those cars (is good.) Many manufacturers are offering longer warranties and complimentary maintenance packages, which is allowing ownership costs to be more manageable.”

Fuel economy was a big reason why Jenica Harshbarger of Richland stopped by Laurel Hyundai along Eisenhower Boulevard to trade in her Santa Fe for a newer, smaller Tucson.

The Harshbargers have been buying cars from Laurel sales consultant Harry Santichen since the late 1980s. She said she had been saving for seven years prior to plunking down for her new car.

A big concern heading into 2013 will be the American Taxpayer Relief Act, the last-minute legislation designed to avert the fiscal cliff, which was signed into law at the beginning of the year.

Smith said more tax dollars coming out of each check means less growth happening in the books, but it’s too early to tell how it will affect business.

“I expect for sales rates to improve at a similar rate to what they have as recently as 2012,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything groundbreaking that will change.”

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