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Robert Trigaux

Tampa Bay Chevy sales bode well for "new" GM, but the fridge may have to wait



JIM GURLEY Wake up and good morning. What's the difference between a refrigerator and a new GM car? Jim Gurley knows. More on that in a moment. (Gurley photo courtesy of GM.)

Tampa Bay area Chevy dealers closed July’s books with their best sales figures of the year, and their highest numbers since last September, thanks in part to the federal "Cash For Clunkers" or CARS program. "We’ve seen a significant increase in vehicle sales and dealer traffic since the launch of the program," says Gurley, General Motors zone manager for the Tampa Bay area. "And we’ve had especially good numbers in Tampa Bay."

Not bad for a company than went into bankruptcy in June and out of it in July.

Indeed, the "clunkers" program is generating more than 245,000 vehicle sales nationwide in two weeks, prompting car dealers to increase the pressure on auto makers to ramp up production, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Overall, in GM's market area that includes Tampa Bay, dealers’ numbers were up 13 percent compared to last year, which is well above the national 2 percent increase. Month-over-month sales figures also continued trending upward, with Chevy’s July vs. June 2009 sales up 26 percent in Tampa Bay, surpassing the national Chevy July vs. June increase of 21 percent.

Chevyequinox In an interview, Gurley says most of his GM dealers tell him there's plenty of interest in the clunkers program but many more customers' vehicles do not qualify for the rebate. Still, that extra volume lets dealers show off Chevy's current "big 3" models: the Malibu, the Traverse crossover SUV and the Equinox (shown in photo).

"It seems people are more creditworthy than usual," Gurley says of recent visitors to dealer lots. "So people who are smart with their money see opportunities with the government rebate to really capitalize on it, along with manufacturer's rebates."

In fact, Gurley sounds downright bullish. "We think we've made the turn and through the rest of 2009 we think things will get better and better. By 2010, things will rebound back," Gurley says. "Dealers are looking for light at the end of the tunnel. We think we can see it now."

Wow. Good news from Gurley the business guy. But what about Gurley the consumer? Things get a bit more complex. Remember the refrigerator at the top of this posting? Gurley says he plans to buy one but he's holding off for now. He explains:

"I am putting off a refrigerator purchase to see if my kids will be okay and keep their jobs. I want to wait, but I think people are feeling a bit better."

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:25am]


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