Local auto dealers say a better economy is helping sales.
Carl Anderson, general manager at Bill Utter Ford, said business for used and new vehicle sales has been up by 22 percent since January.
Anderson said a lot of customers now feel comfortable buying a vehicle.
“Home building is up in this area, and local companies are doing well,” he said. “This is the first time in several years when I talk to local bankers and they tell me business is good.”
The economy depends on people buying and selling and building houses, he said, and Denton is in the middle of that growth.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported last month that Texas home prices were up 6.2 percent over last year in the first quarter of 2013, although the rapid rise in home prices may not continue, according to the latest Dallas Federal Reserve report.
The average price of homes in Denton County is $225,700, according to the Texas Real Estate Center.
Anderson said the top seller at Bill Utter Ford is the F-150 pickup, which recently reclaimed its ranking as the country’s top vehicle. The Toyota Camry had held the top spot since 2009, according to the website cars.com.
According to officials at the Ford Motor Company, the Dallas-Fort Worth region had the best June sales in six years and the Ford F-150 series is part of the reason. An F-Series truck is sold every 42 seconds, a spokesperson with the company said.
According to the May 2013 Freeman Auto Report, year-to-date totals show close to 800 more cars have been sold by Denton County auto dealerships during the first five months of this year, compared to the first five months of 2012.
Gene Cole, general sales manager of McNatt Honda, Toyota and Scion, said sales were up about 20 percent with the most popular cars being the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry.
“Gas prices haven’t affected our sales,” Cole said. “We haven’t seen any gas-price issues in the last year or so.”
AAA Texas said Wednesday that although the price of crude oil is high, above $102 a barrel, gas prices have continued to go downward.
The average price of gas in Texas is $3.34 a gallon, according to the AAA Texas pre-Independence Day weekend report. The statewide average dropped 5 cents from one week ago and is 14 cents less than the national average of $3.48, the association reported. In Denton, the lowest gas price on Friday was $3.21 a gallon, according to GasBuddy.com.
Mark Eckert, owner of Eckert Hyundai, said vehicle sales sometimes depend on the vehicles people drive and if and when they want to get rid of them.
“Hyundai vehicles have good MPG [mile per gallon] ratings, so when gas goes up, we see everybody with their big SUVs coming in to trade their vehicles,” Eckert said. “They are tired of putting so much [gas] in the tank, but we don’t see it as much as when the price is $3 per gallon.”
Although second-quarter sales have been a bit slow at Eckert Hyundai compared to the first quarter, Eckert said his dealership is still doing fine.
He said used vehicle sales were up, while new sales were flat. Hyundai did not predict an increase in car sales this year, he said.
“We were a few units off in May and June,” Eckert said. “Twenty less new [vehicles] and 10 less in June.
Rick Wick, general sales manager for Classic Chrysler Jeep Dodge Mazda in Denton, also said fuel prices had not affected sales of new and used cars compared to sales in 2008 and 2009, during the beginnings of the economic downturn.
“Leasing is up,” he said. “The economy is only having a positive effect on car sales.”
The Jeep Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee are two of the dealership’s top vehicles, he added.
Denny Aldridge, one of the general managers at James Wood Auto Park, also credited vehicle sales to the state of the economy.
“It’s hard to know what’s going on in the customer’s mind.” Aldridge said. “But I do think the economy is what’s giving us the 15 percent increases. I think people are getting more confident. It’s not completely there yet, but confidence is improving.”
GEORGE JOSEPH can be reached at 940-566-6845.
KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter at @KarinaFRamirez.