Q&A with TC auto dealers

Otto Belovich, Cherry Capital/Traverse Motors

William Chichester, Williams Chevrolet and Williams Kia

Mike Marsh, Bill Marsh Automotive Group

Gary Moss, Grand Traverse Auto

Q: Is anyone buying cars in this economy?

Marsh: To date they have been. Our year-to-date is down very little. However, with all the news, you always wonder about the next month going forward. I will say we are very fortunate to be in Traverse City, Michigan. I know through conversations with other dealers elsewhere that we have it better here.

Chichester: Yes they are. We are seeing more of the purchases based on necessity or need versus people making decisions for a styling change. And that's why the used car business is pretty steady. People are looking at replacement, value, price and payment.

Moss: Yes, actually, traffic last week was pretty good. There's still a misconception about the availability of money and credit, but we're doing our best to dispel that rumor.

Belovich: Yeah. I look at all parts of my business…new, used, parts, service…and we are doing fine versus last year.

Q: What is a bright spot?

Chichester: Probably the focus again on fuel economy, and that's true with all manufacturers. You can find a high mileage car from any manufacturer.

Marsh: A bright spot for us has been the consistency of the used car market. And, Saturn has been consistently strong for us.

Moss: Well, we've done well with our car lineup this year and that's been a good thing because Ford needed to correct that. The new Flex has been very well received in northern Michigan though it hasn't been the case statewide. The Escape has been great and we just can't get enough of them right now.

Belovich: Both Cadillac and Subaru are up over '07 and so is used car business. Very encouraging.

Q: When you look at the third quarter sales numbers

we highlight in this issue, what do you see happening in

this market?

Moss: I haven't yet seen the September numbers, but what I'm going to surmise is we've picked up market share in new and used. In July I actually sold more used F-150s than new, which is very rare.

Marsh: Basically all the dealers' numbers are down right now, and down in some areas due to the credit crunch, particularly in the area of the sub-prime market. We are also seeing people downsizing one segment, from a large SUV to a small SUV, for instance.

Belovich: Again, we're looking at an excellent year. I'm elated with our business, quite honestly, and I'm looking to expand. I'm not worried about the short-term.

Chichester: We're fortunate to be in northern Michigan, and we'll rebound quickly. There's pent up demand.