Car dealership general manager Patrick Beck prefers the soft sell when someone he meets is considering going out of town to buy a vehicle. But in his back pocket he keeps this:
"Look at your kids and say, 'Son, daughter, I believe so much in your education that I'm going to support the teachers outside the county, even though you go to school here.'"
Below the belt? Maybe. But some say it's time to drive home the point that buying cars and trucks within the community has big implications for local government services, businesses and jobs.
Not only is more money riding on where people buy their vehicles as sales begin to rebound, but also, competitors in Los Angeles County recently demonstrated they have no qualms about trying new tactics to lure car shoppers out of Kern County.
City officials met last summer with Bakersfield car dealers in an attempt to work out new sales incentives to counter a threat from the Antelope Valley. Although results of the talks were more modest than some had hoped, dealers are working to maximize local purchases with initiatives such as the spring sales drive they are hosting in conjunction with area credit unions.
There is every reason to keep an eye on the issue. Cities depend heavily on vehicle sales tax revenues, and car dealers are anxious to build on the gradual recovery being felt in showrooms across the country.
Beyond that, the Internet is blurring the borders between local dealers and car lots outside the area.
For instance, the California New Car Dealers Association's director of legal and regulatory affairs, Jonathan Morrison, noted that typing "Bakersfield" next to a vehicle manufacturer on an Internet search engine doesn't guarantee the names that come up will be located in Kern County.
That's not a problem for some people.
"If you're a Bakersfield customer and you're looking to buy a Ford," he said, "you're not just going to look in Bakersfield."
Most Kern residents buy their vehicles inside the county. Close to three-quarters of all new car and truck transactions in March were between local dealers and local buyers, up from about two-thirds six years earlier, according to Cross-Sell Reports data compiled by The Californian's market research department.
At the same time, a little more than a fifth of all new vehicles purchased by county residents in March -- 514 cars and trucks -- were bought outside Kern. The largest share of these outside sales (25 percent) took place in the Antelope Valley; the next biggest source of such purchases was Santa Clarita (11 percent).
Local car dealers are not above selling outside the area, but it's happening less often. In March, Kern dealers sold 136 vehicles to non-county residents, amounting to 6 percent of all local sales in March. Six years before, these transactions accounted for 11 percent of Kern vehicle sales.
Meanwhile, new vehicle sales taxes remain a primary driver of Bakersfield's municipal revenues, even as fluctuating car and truck sales in recent years have made them a bumpy source of money for the city's general fund.
Of the county's 7.25 percent sales tax, three-quarters of 1 percent goes to the city where the product -- be it a car, a gumball or a washing machine -- was sold.
Bakersfield sales tax revenues from new vehicle purchases in Bakersfield totaled $6.8 million in 2011, up from $4.7 million in 2009 and $6.3 million in 2008, city records show. For each of those years, sales tax revenues from vehicle purchases accounted for less money than city revenue associated with department store and general store sales -- but more money than was contributed by taxes from service stations, heavy machinery or oil and gas services and equipment sales.
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