Armed with price comparisons and other research scribbled in his notebook,
Michael Rich walked into Galpin Ford in North Hills determined to find a good
deal on a new car this holiday season.
Looking to upgrade in size from his Honda Civic, Rich said he's been "looking at everything and anything."
"I know the deals are better during this time of year so I'm really looking to take advantage of that," the Encino resident said.
Consumers throughout the region and across the nation drove up last month's car sales, so much so that some industry observers predict pre-recession sales levels.
Although car companies won't officially release their November sales numbers until Monday, J.D. Power and Associates, which recently published its monthly sales forecast, predicts November could yield the highest retail selling rate since January 2008.
That was the year when the financial crisis led to a steep drop in car sales and nearly plunged the nation's auto industry into bankruptcy. Car sales in 2008 were so bad that foreign auto manufacturers were being forced to store a backlog of several thousand unsold cars and trucks on Port of Long Beach property.
When that space ran out, cars had to be stored in an abandoned military airfield in southern Orange County.
November's sales numbers, however, are expected to tell a more optimistic story. The month's new vehicle retail sales are projected to come in at 931,900 units, 14 percent higher than 818,609 units the same time a year ago, according to J.D. Power and Associates' Power Information Network and LMC Automotive, which based November's figures on the first 15 selling days of the month.
According to LMC Automotive, the 2012 forecast is 14.4 million units for total light-vehicle sales in the U.S. and 11.7 million units for retail sales.
A spokeswoman for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. in Torrance said the company is expected to report better numbers than last year on Monday.
In Los Angeles County, more than 310,000 cars were sold from January to October, a jump from the 250,000 cars sold around the same time last year, said Todd Leutheuser, executive director of the Cerritos-based Southland Motor Car Dealers Association, which represents the majority of new car and truck dealerships in Southern Los Angeles County.
"Sales have been through the roof throughout the Southland," said Leutheuser, who last year had predicted that national sales would reach 14 million this year.
Pent-up demand, low interest rates and a thin used vehicle market are pushing sales upward, he said.
New technological features such as hands-free calling and navigation systems also may be a factor, he said.
"You'll have these creature comforts that are commonplace now that were very unique seven years ago," Leutheuser said.
Customers are also looking to save money on fuel-efficient cars.
"Fuel costs is certainly one of the motivating factors for us," said Gary Simpson of Valencia while browsing at Galpin Ford.
In the stretch of dealerships along Cherry Avenue in Signal Hill and Long Beach, some salesmen said purchases were up in November compared to last year's sales.
Pravil Thakker, a sales representative at Pacific Ford in Long Beach,
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