Rocky auto industry puts car buyers in control at dealershipsby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — If you're in the market for a new car, this is a good time to be buying. There certainly aren't as many folks looking to buy cars as there were a year or two ago and that's making car manufacturers and dealers very eager to cut deals with buyers.
Amy Engebretson was looking for a small, fuel-efficient, safe and reliable car that would last a long time.
The first stop in her exploration of the market was at Walser Toyota/Scion in Bloomington.
"I feel like I should be able to get a real good, nice car for really cheap," Engebretson said.
With automakers in bankruptcy, dealers closing and sales in the tank, buyers like Engebretson are in the driver's seat. In Minnesota, new vehicle sales through the end of April were down about 40 percent, compared with the same period last year.
At Walser, Engebretson looked at some Yaris subcompacts, but they were a bit more than she was thinking about spending.
"I'm thinking like $10,000," Engebretson said. "But what they're trying to sell me is around $12,000 or $13,000. "So, I guess that's reasonable."
Historically, "reasonable" has not been how many car buyers would describe the initial prices dealers quoted them on cars.
Sergey Gayl also likes the prices he's been seeing in his eight-month search for a new car. His current car, a 1997 Pontiac Bonneville, has served him well.
"Look at my car it has 170,000 miles on it," he said. "And it's rusted, It is dying."
At a dealership in Burnsville, Gayl was checking out a Nissan Versa. It gets 34 miles per gallon on the highway. Gayl could get a new Versa with an automatic transmission and air conditioning for about $12,500.
"It's a good, good price," he said.
But he didn't buy it or any other car so far.
Gayl is a computer programmer and he's working on a contract basis right now. He's waiting to see what contract he lands next before he decides if he needs to squeeze some more life out that Bonneville or can buy a new car.
Consumers have never been so skittish about buying cars said Kader Aelouardighi. He's been selling cars for Walser Nissan for six years now. He said people weigh car purchases very carefully now.
"People used to buy with emotion most of the time," Aelouardighi said. "But now they are thinking about their budget because that's the most important thing."
But Aelouardighi figures many people are unduly anxious about the economy. He said some people who could buy cars are passing up some of the best car deals in years, and that's keeping the auto industry and economy from getting going.
"No matter what, they're going to get a good deal right now," Aelouardighi said. "It's a buyer's market. They are cheaper now, the cars. A lot of manufacturers are giving a lot rebates and discounts, just to make the economy go again."
Even in a buyer's market, Jeff Bartlett of Consumer Reports said consumers should stick to sound buying strategies. Bartlett said the most highly-touted deals may not be on the vehicles that best fit your needs.
"Put all the advertising aside and do your research," Bartlett said. "See what has a low cost of ownership, great safety, great reliability, good test scores. Then from that narrow list, start to see what deals are available."
Bartlett said you should be able to find a good deal on just about every model.
"Car shoppers today can find themselves driving away with a better deal than they could have gotten a year, two years ago," he says. "The desperation from dealers really puts the consumers in the driver's seat."
That's how Amy Engebretson certainly felt. She had been thinking about buying a car a year or two old, but the price on a 2009 Yaris at Walser was too good to pass up. It was a demo model that had about 40 miles on it.
"I paid $12,999 for it," she said. "I feel like I got a good deal [on a] very reliable car that I liked. And it wasn't too expensive."
The continuing problem for car dealers though is that there are far too few buyers like Engrebretson for their cars, trucks and vans. But that is producing enticing deals for those much-coveted consumers in the market for new vehicles.
- Morning Edition, 06/23/2009, 6:50 a.m.