Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wandering the Car Lots

Saturday both my wife and I actually had time and energy to go for a drive/walk. Since one of the car dealers was having a sale at the nearby mall parking lot, we decided to stroll though the cars just to browse. We ended up checking out all three of the new car dealers here, representing (1) Chevrolet/Cadillac (2) Ford/Toyota and (3) Buick/Pontiac/GMC/Chrysler/Nissan. No Honda, Mazda, Subaru or Korean or German makes here.

I'm a bit of an auto industry follower, being a 30-year reader of Car and Driver and Road and Track (Has it really been 30? sigh) and a regular visitor to a couple of industry-following websites. It's always interesting to see how what I read translates into what's on the lots.

The thing most apparent at the mall was what the dealer (number 3 above) made most visible by lining them up along the highway that runs past; full-size GMC pickups. The current plunge in sales of such vehicles has been well reported, and it's no doubt true here as well, but pickups have always sold better than average here because farmers and ranchers need them; they're not just a style choice (although they are for some; a co-worker of mine, a middle-aged single woman with grown children, drives a full-size 4-wheel-drive Dodge pickup despite never towing anything larger than a jet ski). The other dealers also have pickup-heavy lots. I did notice some interesting incentives on SUVs, though; gas cards up to $1000 at one dealer. I've never had the need to own such a vehicle, and I can't imagine driving something so large everyday, so I tend to walk past them.

It always strikes me as I look at the selection that my taste in vehicles must be unusual, because there are very few vehicles that I would consider buying. I've always tended toward smaller vehicles, and I like the convenience of hatchbacks or wagons. Such vehicles are not common on the lots here; the Nissan Versa and the Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix (essentially the same vehicle) are the main choices for me. I would like to see a Honda or Mazda dealer here. Both the Honda Fit and Mazda 3 seem worth considering, and someday I would like to own a Miata. I could go elsewhere to buy one, but the nearest dealer is 160 miles away.

I also wonder how the possible changes I read about will affect things here. Chrysler is regarded as a dead company walking at some sites I read; they're a big presence at the biggest dealer here. The need for GM to reduce dealers is also frequently discussed, and I wonder how splitting their lineup between two dealers here can be justified, although as far as I know both are doing OK.

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