Auto dealers reflect on 2013

Published 9:54 pm Friday, December 6, 2013

Eddie White says new car sales were down but used car sales were up at Starr Motors in 2013.

Eddie White says new car sales were down but used car sales were up at Starr Motors in 2013.

Three Suffolk car dealers have reported mixed results for 2013 but say a few more folks toured their lots over Black Friday, when most shoppers hit the malls.

“We usually get a fair amount of traffic,” said Eddie White of Starr Motors, selling new Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicles, as well as used autos.

“By people being off (from work), they come to a dealership and look at cars so they don’t have to get in all the hustle and bustle.”

Email newsletter signup

White reports sales at Starr were “fair” during the Friday and Saturday.

Eley Duke of Duke Automotive said Chevrolet and GMC, which the dealership sells alongside Buick and Cadillac — plus used cars — offered the general public preferred pricing during Black Friday, making cars available at discounted prices ordinarily reserved for dealership employees.

“We did OK with it. I wouldn’t say it was gangbusters,” Duke said. “We ended up doing some business from it, (but) it wasn’t as successful as something like the zero-percent (financing) … because there is so much other competition with Black Friday.”

Mike Duman, meanwhile, sells Suzuki in Suffolk and Buick, Chevrolet and GMC in Franklin, plus has a “Used Car Superstore” at his Suffolk location.

He said the lots get a “little spike in traffic” during Thanksgiving and other holidays, “because people have more time on their hands.”

“People are searching for value and thinking about buying,” he said, “and they’ve been looking in newspapers and looking online.”

This Black Friday over other years was “an exceptionally good two days,” Duman said.

White and Duke both reported slower military and government sales after sequestration took money from government departmental coffers and from workers’ pocketbooks.

“We are right here at the Navy base, and everything else relies on the Navy,” White said.

Many of these buyers are playing wait-and-see regarding the prospect of future federal government shutdowns, according to Duke.

“During the recession, they were still spending, whereas the private sector had to cut back,” he said.

Duke, who reports an increase this year for new GM sales, said used-car sales have been “about flat.”

But folks have been spending more on servicing their cars and on extended warranties, meaning they intend to stretch out vehicle’s lifespan rather than buy, he said.

“The pre-owned retail market continues to be volatile at best,” he said. “We see fair-market prices are not really as stable as most dealers would like to see them.”

White for Starr Motors said, “our new car sales are down, but used car sales are up.”

Duman said his business was “solidly ahead” in 2013. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s the best environment to sell a car and purchase a car,” he said.

“It’s a phenomenally good time to buy a car. Not only the interest rate but just the terms that are available. … Even an individual with challenged credit has the opportunity to purchase a car.”