Make us your home page
Instagram

Tampa Bay auto sales offer bright light in dim regional economy

Listen to enough dour economists these days and it starts to feel like we're on the road back to Recessionville. Maybe that's why so many Tampa Bay folks are buying new vehicles.

To drive somewhere else.

Auto dealerships may not be doing cartwheels but vehicle sales are a bright light in a dim regional business scene. Consider the 18.8 percent jump in new autos sales in the first half of 2012 in Pasco County, where dealerships sold 14,218 vehicles. And dealerships in the larger Hillsborough and Pinellas county markets enjoyed six-month sales of nearly 45,000 new vehicles combined. That's up about 9 percent.

Scott Fink's Hyundai of New Port Richey dealership continued to dominate metro area dealers in new vehicle sales. Yet despite selling more than 3,000 vehicles so far this year, Fink is only marginally upbeat.

"The overall feel is just okay. There's still plenty of negative economic circumstances to overcome," he says. Fink cites the still troubled housing sector, the increasing cost of living, high unemployment and wage pressure on those with jobs.

Still, Fink says banks are making credit more available. Other dealers agree but add that banks are aggressively pricing loans differently for different customers.

People with average credit scores tend to get loans with interest rates between 6 and 8 percent. People with top credit get the same loans at between 2 and 4 percent.

People also are hanging on to their vehicles longer, which means more pent-up demand for new vehicles is now surfacing.

"The age of the average car on the road is the highest it's been in history," Fink says.

In Hudson, Chevrolet dealer Tom Castriota sees more customers than ever with 7- to 10-year-old vehicles and six-figure mileages. "Those people are getting out of those cars because they have to," he says.

Gas prices also have greatly influenced the industry.

People were nervous when gas was near $4 a gallon. But even at $3.29, Castriota says his buyers want the next generation of vehicles with better mileage. Many Chevrolet brands top 30 miles per gallon while the Chevy Spark boasts highway mileage approaching 40 mpg.

Big SUVs and pickups remain modest sellers. True, they get fewer miles to the gallon, but it's also because those types of vehicles appealed to the still depressed construction industry, Castriota says.

GM's in the midst of refreshing the designs of many of its models. That's good news for dealers like Castriota's — if he can get enough inventory of the new vehicles in the coming year.

Some area dealerships, especially those selling Toyotas and to a lesser extent Hondas, enjoyed strong first-half sales increases, based on data from AutoCount. It marks a comeback by the Japanese automakers hit hard after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Brandon Ford remained the biggest area dealer of domestic vehicles as Ford enjoyed three models (F Series pickup, Escape and Fusion) among the nation's top 10 best sellers in June.

What will be the top selling vehicles ahead? Watch the price of gas, suggests Fink.

"It's still top of mind on the consumer's list."

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@tampabay.com.

Tampa Bay's top 5 dealerships

Ranked by new vehicle sales, first half of 2012

DealerNumber

sold
Increase from same period 2011
Hyundai of

New Port Richey
3,2155.1 %
Sun Toyota/Scion1,66542.2 %
Autoway Toyota/Scion1,3193.8 %
Brandon Ford1,29510 %
Toyota/Scion

of Tampa Bay
1,20713.2 %

Sales by county

Ranked by new vehicle sales, first half of 2012

CountyNumber

sold
Increase from same period 2011
Hillsborough24,3578.6 %
Pinellas19,1749 %
Pasco14,21818.8 %
Polk11,76712.3 %
Citrus2,708– 2.8 %
Hernando1,1425.5 %

Source: AutoCount

Tampa Bay auto sales offer bright light in dim regional economy 07/18/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 11:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lost Highway: As FHP struggles to recruit, speeding tickets plummet

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The number of speeding tickets written by Florida state troopers has plunged three straight years as the agency grapples with a personnel shortage and high turnover.

    A Florida Highway Patrol Academy class in the late 1980s. Typically, graduating classes had about 80 recruits. But the most recent class has less than half that as the agency continues to struggle to fill vacancies. [

Florida: Highway Patrol]
  2. Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze

    Retail

    First it was Play-Doh. Then Gak. There have been dozens of variations for sale of the oozy, gooey, squishable, stretchable kids' toy through the generations.

    Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  3. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in

    Consumer

    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  4. Law firm's Russia ties prove nothing about Trump

    Business

    The statement

    "Law firm @POTUS used to show he has no ties to Russia was named Russia Law Firm of the Year for their extensive ties to Russia. Unreal."

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., stands during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Monday, June 20, 2016 in Washington. A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns on Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando's mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  5. Pasco county lawyer disbarred for taking woman's money

    Real Estate

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis.

    The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis. 
[2016 booking photo via Pasco County Sheriff's Office]