Record breaking December sales for auto dealers

Mishawaka, Ind. Car buyers across the country are on pace to spend a record high of $34 billion on new vehicles in December, and sales at some local dealerships are no exception to that trend.

Area Gates and Gurley Leep dealerships both reported a surge of sales this month, topping off an already booming year for the auto industry.

"Our company is up 38 percent in new Chevrolet sales," said Matt Helmhamp, president of Gates Chevy. He credit the rise to new Impala and Silverado models, as well as a rise in consumer confidence overall.

"Our industry was one of the first to see the economy go downward so we're hoping we're the first to go upward," Helmkamp said. According to monthly sales forecasts provided by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, total vehicle sales are expected to be up at least four percent over 2012.

"It's been the biggest year in the automotive industry since probably 2006 or 2007," agreed Scott Pharr, General Manager, Gurley Leep Cadillac Buick GMC. "It's been a huge year -- some dealerships have seen increases close to double what they did two or three years ago."

Pharr also noticed a rise in companies and small businesses updating their fleet after the hiatus caused by the recession.

"Those vehicles get driven so much and the miles come so rapidly, but businesses had to hold on to those cars because of the recession," Pharr said. "Now they've been able to get out of those cars much sooner and we've seen a big boom with that."

And if you're looking to buy a car in the near future, the final days of 2013 might be your ticket to the best deals.

"This is a really exciting time for us because we have an opportunity to team up as a 7-store family of stores and really pass on some savings." Pharr said. "Our used cars are going to be priced lower than they have all year. All new cars are going to start at invoice and manufacturers have rebates on top of that and a lot of other great deals going on."

The same is true of Gates Chevy sales leading up to the New Year.

"Manufacturers really want to end the year strong," Helmkamp said. "Our Toyota store, most of those models have an additional $500 or $750 off and at the Chevy store they've been incentivizing the leases as well as purchase prices."

Both of those dealerships will be open on New Year's Eve to accommodate last minute shoppers.

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