New-vehicle registrations in El Paso County are on the verge on increasing for a third consecutive year, and likely will finish the year with the highest annual total since 2007, according to data included in the latest report from the county’s Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
Registrations for the first nine months of the year are up 20.9 percent from a year earlier to 15,566, and likely will pass the total for all of 2011 by late this month, said Mike Cimino, vice president of Phil Long Dealerships, the largest dealership group in the Colorado Springs area. New registrations need to average just 1,231 vehicles a month for the final three months of the year to finish 2012 with the highest annual total in five years, and registrations have exceeded that amount during each of the past 14 months.
“We are well ahead of last year this month. We were 25 percent ahead of last year in September and are doing at least that well this month,” Cimino said.
“We were off to a roaring start in the first three months of the year, then flattened during the summer with the heat wave and the Waldo Canyon fire. We started rolling again last month. The manufacturers are forecasting a strong fourth quarter. We are still seeing a lot of pent-up demand out there because the average vehicle on the road today is 10½ years old and has 120,000 miles on it.”
Registration gains were led by Suzuki, up 167.5 percent in the first nine months of 2012 from the same period a year ago to 204, and Honda, up nearly double to 768, benefiting from the opening a year ago of Freedom Honda as the city’s second Honda dealer. Honda was the third-highest-selling make during the first three quarters, behind Ford and Toyota.
Jerry Colten, owner and general manager of Al Serra Colorado, which owns three dealerships in the Springs, said sales have been strong in the past few months and remain up in October even though he expected a drop this month. He said the dealership has ordered 40 percent more vehicles from its manufacturers this winter than it did a year ago.
“Part of what is driving sales is that lenders have become more flexible and it is a lot easier to get credit for a new car than it has been in the past few years,” Colten said. “There are also more aggressive lease deals available, and many buyers are finding that they can buy a new car that gets much better gas mileage than the vehicle it is replacing, and end up saving money on what they spend on the car payment and gas every month.”
Surging car sales have been a major driver in boosting sales tax collections so far this year for the city of Colorado Springs, which are up 4.2 percent from a year ago.
Collections from auto dealers so far this year, which include new and used vehicles as well as parts, are up 9.4 percent to $8.28 million, or 10.4 percent of the $79.3 million total collected.
Fred Crowley, senior economist for the Southern Colorado Economic Forum, said new-vehicle registrations have been fueled by pent-up demand, soldiers returning to Fort Carson from Afghanistan and attractive financing rates. But he said surging sales are unlikely to continue into next year.
New-vehicle registrations statewide during the first seven months of the year, the most recent data available, were up 20.5 percent from a year ago to 85,780, according to statistics compiled by the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association. Nationwide, vehicle sales for the first nine months of 2012 were up 14.5 percent from a year earlier to 10.9 million, according to data from Wards Auto.com compiled by the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Tim Jackson, president of the state dealers group, said the industry may still have room to grow, as sales have not yet recovered to prerecession levels, remaining about 10 percent below the total for 2007.
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