BUFFALO, NY ( Business First ) A perfect storm of low interest rates, stronger consumer confidence and attractive models resulted in local auto dealers having one of their best years in recent memory.
According to year-end sales numbers compiled by the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association, new vehicles sales rose 3.3 percent in 2011. In hard numbers, new vehicle sales increased to 50,605 last year from 48,945 in 2010. Sales from the region's Chevrolet dealers was not included in the statistics.
"Everything went right in 2011," said Frank Downing Jr., Towne Automotive Group president. "Going into last year, I wasn't optimistic but as the year wore on I became pleasantly surprised."
Towne sells a wide variety of auto brands including Ford and BMW. The "Beemer" was sort of a tell tale sign of the region's auto sales. In December, alone, Towne's Clarence BMW dealership sold 120 new vehicles - the most in its history.
Mercedes Benz of Buffalo sold 69 new vehicles in November and December of 2010. Last year, it sold 105 Mercedes during those two months.
"Look at the BMW and Mercedes numbers." Downing said. "Those tell me people are feeling better about buying cars. I've always said car dealers are on the front edge of consumer confidence and we are seeing proof of that."
Ford remains the top-selling brand, according to the NFADA statistics. In December, the region's 14 area Ford dealers sold 1085 new vehicles compared with 882 a year ago, a 23 percent increase.
Both Downing and Paul Stasiak, NFADA president, attribute the strong 2011 to a number of factors including attractive interest rates, low monthly leasing rates from many of the major automakers, a smaller than usual supply of used cars and renovations to dealerships.
Interest rates and low leasing packages were key in the region.
"Buffalo is a very price sensitive market," Stasiak said. "Money was cheap and that was very attractive to a lot of buyers."
Across the board, most dealers selling brand name vehicles reported more sales and lease packages in 2011 over 2010.
"A lot of people suddenly became more interested in buying new cars," Stasiak said.