Tuesday, 27 January 2015 00:00

Southeast Automakers, Including VW, are Gearing Up for Record Sales, Overall Strong Sales Nationwide

In all, about 16.5 million cars were sold in the U.S. in 2014, the industry’s best year since 2006, according to Cars.com.

The Southeast manufacturing sector is ramping up to meet demand, as evidenced by recent expansions expected to bring thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in new investment—including a deal that will bring production of a new SUV to the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN. The company said last year that it will invest $600M and expand its workforce by 2,000 in auto assembly and an additional 200 engineers for its new National Research and Development and Planning Center, the first for any automaker in the South.

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Dealers are also upbeat about continued sales growth. Dino Velazquez, who owns four dealerships in Dothan, Alabama, including a brand new Volkswagen dealership, told local business reporter Carly Omenhiser that last year was his best year ever for sales.

“The market went to nothing in ’09 during the bankruptcies of the automobile companies and the pent up demand has been tremendous,” Velazquez said. “People are having to buy because they’ve been putting it off longer than they normally would, so that’s why the pent up demand has made such a big difference in our production last year, and the year before.”

Velazquez said that demand is going to continue for the next several years as people get caught up before the market levels off.

Sujit CanagaRetna, with the Atlanta office of the Council of State Governments and a leading expert on the South's auto industry, told The Tennessean in a 2014 interview that “this region has become a real magnet, not only for new plants, but also for expansions,” he said. “BMW in South Carolina is another great example. They've been there 20 years and have gone through five or six expansions, with the latest in March for $1 billion.

Meanwhile, car companies are enjoying the uptick in sales and boasting record numbers of sales.

Jeep reported its best year in history for 2014, selling more than one million vehicles.

“The (Chrysler) Jeep Wrangler, for instance, is about 43 percent better than last year. It’s up the highest of any vehicle in the market,” Velazquez said. “But the Jeep brand, itself, is up dramatically.”

With crude oil prices going down, it’s also helping alleviate hesitations to purchase larger-sized SUVs and trucks.

The top three selling vehicles were the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and the Dodge Ram.

According to Forbes.com, light truck sales were up 9.6 percent through November 2014 and large sport utilities were up 12 percent through November 2014.

However, sedans continue to be a majority among the top 10 best-selling cars. The Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla were all on the list. The Ford Fusion replaced the Ford Escape on the list, reducing the list’s number of SUVs. In 2013, the list included the Honda CR-V and the Ford Escape.

Velazquez and his wife Ann said they are excited about the opening of their new dealership and hope to add to the increase of sales with Volkswagens.

Velazquez said they have been trying to bring a Volkswagen dealership to Dothan for more than 20 years, and they’ve finally been able to open the doors of their new location on Ross Clark Circle.

The dealership had a soft opening on Jan. 2 and intends to have a grand opening celebration on March 10.

The couple also owns Dothan Kia just down the road from the Volkswagen location, Dothan Chrysler on the north side of the circle and Enterprise Chevrolet.

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