Page 55 - BusinessWest February 17, 2021
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crossover vehicles.
“SUVs make up 68% of our sales,
compared to sedans,” Rome said. “It used to be the inverse.”
He credits the shift to SUVs han- dling more like a car than earlier mod- els, which were built on truck frames. He also noted that, as buyers age, they prefer a higher vehicle to make it easier to enter and exit.
Nearly every model in Lewis’ show- room is an SUV or crossover vehicle. “The crossover is really a replacement for the old station wagon,” he said. “It’s designed to open up the hatchback, put the back seats down, and throw in your junk.”
Ford is another of the many manu- facturers moving away from traditional sedans and toward crossovers and SUVs. In addition, Sarat sells one of the most popular vehicles in the U.S., the Ford F-150 pickup truck, calling it his “bread and butter.”
Ford recently released a hybrid ver- sion of the popular pickup truck, and the new Ford Mustang Mach E is an all-electric vehicle. And Sarat has made a move toward all-electric vehicles among commercial cargo vans as well. Jeff Sarat, general sales manager, said these vans can run up to 300 miles a day and then plug in for recharging overnight.
“We won’t be back
to normal for a while,
but everything I read in automotive reports suggests new-car sales in 2021 are going to be very strong .
I think it’s going to be an exciting year.”
“For business owners, it signifi- cantly reduces the cost of ownership,” he said, noting that an electric motor eliminates traditional maintenance and substantially reduces the vehicle’s carbon footprint. “We’ve got a lot of good things coming down the road, and our electric vehicles are going to be on people’s shopping list when they look for their next car.”
While hybrid and electric vehicle sales represent about 5% of Rome’s sales, he expects that number to rise to 10% soon.
“The manufacturers have jumped into this market with both feet. Within two years, we expect to offer a dozen hybrid or electric vehicles,” he said, adding that hybrid vehicles can improve mileage up to 140 miles per gallon, while some all-electric vehicles can go 386 miles on a full charge.
“In some ways, it’s like owning an iPhone, where you want to get a new one every three years to stay up on the
latest technology,” he added. Another shift this year has taken
place in the used-car market. The eco- nomic shutdown last spring affected new-car production, and dealers found they had more empty spaces on their lots. “When fewer new vehicles are coming in, it also creates a lack of used inventory because people are not trad- ing in their cars,” Sarat said.
For this reason, all the dealers we spoke with said used-car prices stayed high last year and will continue to remain strong in 2021.
Rome acknowledged the strength of the used-car market, but said his busi- ness runs somewhat counter to the
normal trend.
“In our world, we sell about two
new cars to every used car,” he explained. “If you can buy a new car with a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty for about the same price as a used car, why would you buy the used car?”
No Slowing Down
With his business finishing 2020 with a 19% sales increase, Rome pre- dicts an 18% increase on top of last year’s success for 2021.
With his dealership in Hadley, Lewis noted that he is located two miles from five colleges and universities. When students and faculty all abandoned
campus early in the pandemic, it cut deep into his business. He is hope- ful these sales will return as everyone comes back to campus.
“Despite all that, we had our best year ever, and we’re hoping 2021 is as good as 2020,” he said.
Jack Sarat anticipates at least some supply disruptions due to COVID in 2021, but remains optimistic for a good year ahead as well.
“We won’t be back to normal for a while, but everything I read in automo- tive reports suggests new-car sales in 2021 are going to be very strong,” he said. “I think it’s going to be an exciting year.” u
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