Gas Falls, So Do New Auto Sales


New reports from the Wall Street Journal show sales of cars and passenger trucks falling back to 2010 levels after rising significantly through the first half of this year. As gas descends from its peak of near four dollars a gallon last month, it’s apparently not doing much to ramp up sales for auto manufacturers, at least, not yet.

Previous WSJ reporting has focused on a pretty extreme trend in today’s auto market: the prices of used cars are skyrocketing as Americans choose to go pre-owned and dealers scoop up inventory to present the best and most well cared for used cars and trucks in various states and communities. This shortage has many ramifications, but it’s also deeply tied to the sales numbers for new vehicles. Experts have cited the natural disasters in Japan as a major cause of the initial shortage in new car production, but even as the Japanese plants get back in full swing, it seems like it will take awhile for Americans to get their appetite back for the high financing levels that most buyers require to get behind the wheel of a new car.

In the 2011 new car market, some models have made more headway than others. According to the WSJ story, midsize SUVs have sold best in 2011, with the Ford Explorer a top seller. Another best-selling model, the Hyundai Elentra, represents a huge gain in market share for the Korean manufacturer, where Hyundai sedan models, as well as those of sister company Kia, are selling quite well in today’s North American market.

If you are one of those brave buyers heading to a manufacturer’s dealer lot for a new car deal, make sure you have the right tools to navigate this process well. Check your credit and look for alternatives for loans to the “under 660” market. Shop around with third party lenders, and you’ll get a better idea of what’s good in terms of interest rates, and what’s just plain ridiculous. Always understand your entire “package” when the dealer presents it, and get your new car bill itemized in order to negotiate the finer points of a financing agreement. And always ask about what’s behind a “monthly payment” to make sure you’re not paying too much over time. Another big tip is to look carefully at the most competitive smaller car models, base models and fuel-saving small engine models, including some of those mentioned above, to get just what you need for less.