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Auto dealers are firing on all cylinders
'It was a fantastic year to be in the car business in the Greater Houston area'
By David Kaplan : June 22, 2013
Houston-area auto dealers had a stellar 2012.
They saw record increases in year-over-year retail sales of 28.5 percent, and finished the year with the highest December sales ever, said Steve McDowell, owner of InfoNation, publisher of Texas AutoFacts Report, which tracks new-vehicle sales in the 10-county Houston region.
Dealers had plenty of inventory and low-cost financing for consumers who continued to act on their pent-up demand, Wainwright said.
The busiest was Fred Haas Toyota/Scion World, which ranks first on the Chronicle's list of dealerships with the highest sales. It ranked No. 2 on last year's list.
Sterling McCall Toyota-Scion is No. 2, up from No. 3; Lone Star Chevrolet is No. 3, after being Number 1 last year.
Collectively, local dealers had a strong year.
The average retail price of a vehicle at the end of the year was $34,100, also a record, said McDowell, the InfoNation owner.
Also significant, he said, is that on average local dealers finished 2012 with higher retail sales per store compared with the previous year.
One reason for the high number of sales per store is that there are fewer dealerships. In 2007, the year before the recession, there were 267 dealerships. Some car manufacturers downsized, and in Houston there are now 239.
At Fred Haas Toyota/Scion World, 2012 "was a very good year," owner Fred Haas said.
"We were climbing out of a slump," he said.
He doesn't expect year-over-year sales increases to be as dramatic in 2013, although he expects to outperform last year.
His dealership is currently the largest Toyota truck dealer in the United States, Haas added.
Sterling McCall Toyota-Scion has completed a major renovation after making "substantial investments in our new and pre-owned sales facilities," dealership general manager Jerry Bush said.
Sterling McCall's parent company, Houston-based Group 1 Automotive, has 23 dealerships and corporate offices in the Houston/Beaumont area.
The company had record sales and profits in 2012, and Houston-area dealerships "played a critical role," said Earl Hesterberg, Group 1 president and CEO.
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