Hudson Register-Star Weekend Edition,

March 14-15, 2009


Consumers choosing affordability over shiny and new

Used car dealers hold their own in current economy

By Jamie Larson

The Noecker66 car lot in Hudson. Owner John Noecker says pre-owned vehicles are by far the easiest to sell in the current economy.

(Photo by Robert Ragaini/Hudson-Catskill Newspapers)


COLUMBIA/GREENE — Area car dealers say the pinch of the nation’s economic recession is still firmly on the back of their necks, but that there are aspects of the business that are still stronger than others. They also say some consumers’ concerns about financing may be misplaced.

At Catskill Buick GMC Pontiac Cadillac of Route 9W in Greene County, owner Len Romeo says sales of new cars have declined 30 percent since the economic crisis hit in the fall. “Sales dropped immediately in September-October,” Romeo said, “and then they just stayed there.”

Those numbers, he adds, seem to be pretty equal with what dealerships are experiencing county-wide. Some lots are doing better than others, but a decrease of 30 to 40 percent appears to be the county norm, according to dealers’ accounts.

Romeo’s sales have picked up a little in the past month and he is hoping to see them rise slowly through the year. While he would rather be seeing sales re-correct by “shooting strait up like a rocket,” he says he and his peers in the industry understand this recession is going to be a long road, and he’ll take gains where he can get them.

“People simply aren’t as willing to go for big ticket purchases right now,” he says. “You’ve got to build up consumer confidence again before they’re willing to spend.”

At Rosetti Chevrolet in Chatham, owner Dave Barden says he’s seen similar losses and trends. He also pointed to another new reality for car dealers.

Barden and Romeo are both seeing more sales from their stock of used cars than new ones. “I think there are more used sales because people are waiting for a sign were coming out of this thing [the recession],” Barden said. “We’ve got pretty big incentives to buy at the moment — zero percent interest for 60 months — which is huge. But there are so many incentives out there that all look the same. Everyone really needs to shop smart and shop around,” he said.

John Noecker, owner of  Noecker66 car dealership in Hudson, says pre-owned vehicles are by far the easiest to sell right now. Noecker says his business is actually pretty stable.

He figures that people are buying cheaper used cars, and as their cars break down that brings business to his service center.

“One thing makes up for the other,” he said, “but the economy is difficult.  Everybody is concerned.  Remember, all used cars aren’t doing better — It's cheap used cars that are doing better.  And any new car dealer who has a lot of shiny new cars on their lot, I feel sorry for them.”

Noecker says it is President Barack Obama’s fault that the economy hasn’t started to rebound yet.  He asserts if the country put a car dealer in charge of the economic crisis the recession would be over right away.

“We get it,” he said.

Barden says he feels all potential customers are pretty well tuned into the economy right now, and know what the problems are.

He also keeps seeing one issue reported on that he, and Romeo, say they are just not seeing. According to the men they are not having trouble getting people financed for new cars. While lack of bank loans are a hot topic these days, they say if someone has credit they can still get a deal.

“The only people who aren’t getting funding are people with bad credit,” Romeo said. “And truthfully, they shouldn’t have gotten it before.”