News Column

Auto Sales Surge; Plants Adding Jobs

Dec. 5, 2012

Steve Bennish

Auto Sales
Nissan Maxima

Newly-released November figures showing improved sales of new vehicles raised hopes for Ohio's economy and other states closely tied to the auto industry.

Both domestic and foreign car-makers reported sales increases. Among the Detroit automakers, Chrysler saw the highest percentage increase in sales -- up 14 percent from November 2011. Ford's sales increased 6.5 percent. GM reported a 3 percent rise.

Toyota said Monday its November sales rose 17 percent from a year earlier, while Volkswagen sales leaped 35 percent. Honda, with a plant in Marysville, reported a November sales jump of 39 percent compared to that month last year. Earlier this year, Honda said it would hire an additional 200 workers in Marysville.

Analysts said Americans are willing to buy a new car or truck because they are more confident in the economy than they've been in a while: Home values are rising, hiring is up and auto financing is readily available. Buyers holding off purchases because of Superstorm Sandy helped, too.

Ohio, Indiana and Michigan lost an estimated 275,000 auto manufacturing jobs through much of the previous decade. Driving Growth, a project sponsored by the National Resources Defense Council, said that Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows the U.S. auto sector has added 235,400 jobs as of October since an employment low in June 2009.

Employment in auto manufacturing, motor vehicle assembly plus motor vehicle parts manufacturing, has increased by 149,800, for a 24 percent gain since the trough. Auto dealer jobs have also grown by 85,600 jobs.

Driving Growth said that Michigan, Ohio and Indiana have the nation's largest concentration of auto manufacturing jobs, accounting for 36.5 percent of auto manufacturing jobs nationwide according to September 2012 figures, the latest month for which state-level data is available.

Collectively, the three states saw an increase of 64,200 jobs as of September, a gain of 29.3 percent since the trough in June 2009.

Michigan has seen the largest, adding 34,100 jobs for a gain of 32.7 percent. Indiana's auto manufacturing grew by 19,600 jobs for a gain of 39.4 percent and Ohio's auto sector had 10,500 jobs added for a gain of 16.1 percent since the June 2009 low point.

Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Auto Dealers Association, called the overall pace of sales solid, especially in states like Ohio where residential real estate has firmed.

In Ohio, new vehicle sales are up, said Tim Doran, president of the 830-member Ohio Auto Dealers Association, but not as robust as nationwide. Doran attributes the rise in Ohio sales to "people who have to buy," rather than consumers choosing to buy a new car.

"It's that their vehicle might have broken down, or there are repairs needed to it, that sort of thing," Doran said. "That's opposed to people saying that it's time to get that new car I've been thinking about."

In Ohio through October, 473,329 new vehicles were sold this year compared to 439,361 by that time in 2011. Locally, sales were down.

In Butler County 10,728 vehicles sold in 2012 through October compared to 11,042 last year.

Sales have leaped 44.4 percent at Middletown Ford, according to general sales manager J.R. Roberts.

"I've been in the business since 2004 and this has been the best year since then," Roberts said. "We were averaging about 45 vehicles sold a month last year. We're averaging about 20 more cars a month this year than we did last year."

Top selling models include the Ford Focus, Fusion, Escape and the ever-popular F-150.

"That's been the best-selling truck (industry-wide) for 35 years straight," he said.

Customers seem to feel more comfortable about buying vehicles this year, Roberts said.

"There was a point we were having people come in back in 2008 when people were worried about losing their jobs," he said. "You don't hear that this year."

Foreign-based brands saw the biggest sales increases due to big discounts, Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for automotive pricing site, told the Associated Press. Truecar said discounts were up nearly 20 percent from last month. Sales prices also were the highest in nearly a year as people bought cars with more options.

If sales nationwide end up at 15 million units for the year, it would be a vast improvement over the 10.4 million during the recession in 2009. Sales would still fall short of the recent peak of around 17 million in 2005.

Staff Writer Eric Schwartzberg and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Source: (c) 2012 Hamilton JournalNews (Hamilton, Ohio)

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