Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Brutal Winter Took Toll on Auto Buying

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Brutal Winter Took Toll on Auto Buying

Article excerpt

DETROIT - Frigid temperatures and snowy weather generally kept buyers away from auto showrooms last month, with Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen all reporting declines from a year ago. But Chrysler, Nissan and Subaru and Hyundai dealers were happy. Sales ran counter to the thermometer and were up for all three brands.

January is usually a slow month for auto sales, but the polar vortex likely slowed things even more. Industry analysts predicted little or no sales gains last month compared with a year ago. Ford said the industry saw double-digit sales gains in the West, where the weather was good, but big declines in other regions.

Results were mixed for the three models that Toyota produces at its Princeton, Ind. plant.

Sales of Toyota's newly redesigned Highlander sports utility vehicle totaled 10,501 last month, up 26 percent from a year earlier. The Highlander was one of only two of Toyota's North Americanbuilt vehicles, along with the Rav4, to see sales gains last month.

As for Toyota's other two Princeton-produced models: The automaker sold 7,696 Sienna minivans last month, down 1 percent from a year ago. It also sold 787 Sequoia sports utility vehicles, down 33 percent from the same time last year.

Dealers saw the impact firsthand.

"When you go three days when no one comes on the lot, it's a little tough to be up to average," said Timothy "Bruce" Detweiler, dealer principal of a Buick-GMC dealer in Masontown, Pa., about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. Temperatures there were near or below zero for several straight days.

GM said its sales dropped 12 percent compared with the same month a year earlier, while Ford and Toyota each were down 7 percent. Volkswagen slumped 19 percent.

But Chrysler's U.S. sales advanced 8 percent, while Nissan's rose nearly 12 percent. Subaru saw a 19 percent increase, and Hyundai reported its best January ever with sales up 1 percent. …

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