Feb. 13--MIDDLETOWN -- U.S. auto sales slipped 3 percent to just over 1 million in January as cold weather kept potential buyers at home. It was the first year-over-year sales drop since August 2010.
"When it's minus 30 degrees there's just nobody here," said Roosevelt Robinson III, president of Middletown Ford, which reported an approximately 10 percent drop in new and used car sales in January. "If someone shows up they really have a need to buy a vehicle."
Robinson estimates the dealership sold 60 new and used cars last month. While he says the sales and service departments are slow, it's not the case for body shop workers.
"They've been busy, a little bit more activity ... they're a little happier but sales and service aren't too happy," said Robinson.
Ford posted a 7 percent drop in auto sales in January, blaming bad weather across the country. Ford said it sold just over 154,600 vehicles in the month, with fleet sales in particular heavily impacted by the weather.
The Ford results stood in sharp contrast to Chrysler, whose U.S. sales rose 8 percent in January despite the frigid weather that gripped much of the nation. The automaker says it sold just over 127,000 vehicles for its best January in six years.
General Motors auto sales fell 12 percent. The company said it expects to earn modestly higher U.S. market share in 2014 and grow its commercial fleet business.
Middletown Ford's sales manager Willie Avery told the Journal-News January sales were up at least 20 percent last year because of the mild winter. Avery says they sold around 80 cars in January 2013.
"The four years I've been at Middletown Ford it's probably been the coldest winter that we've had," said Avery. "Historically the car business has a lull in the cold months."
While foot traffic is slow, Internet traffic is skyrocketing, according to Middletown Ford employees. They said customers are requesting information online about pricing, vehicle availability and financing options.
Phone calls from customers are also on the rise.
"When you have three to four inches on the road, you hate to wreck your car and come in to trade at the dealership," said Avery.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Auto sales slump with cold weather
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