Dealerships Improvise As Auto Sales Start Climbing Back Up

HOLLAND, Mich. –  Auto industry experts from the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association said there was good reason for some to break-out the champagne at the end of 2012.

The past year proved to be the best in vehicle sales since 2007.   Experts caution, there is still a long climb from the depths of the bottom to the pinnacle at top.

During those “down years” dealers have been improvising ways to increase sales.

At the VerHage dealership in Holland, Ross De Vries took FOX 17 around the showroom floor pointing out a red 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

De Vries has been selling cars at this family owned dealership for more than a decade.

“Going to your local retailer is what a small community is all about,” said De Vries.

In recent years De Vries has seen the company go through changes.

“2009 was the bankruptcy year and Chrysler pulled our franchise,” he said.

After that, VerHage was left without a franchise of any kind.  The owners stayed in business by becoming a used-car dealership.  They also began diversifying their products by selling Harley Davidson motorcycles.

“We’ve got three or four of our staff here that ride on a regular basis and they are really familiar with them.  We know the product and we’ve done well with that,” said General Manager Norm VerHage.

In 2011 the family owned business went into business with Mitsubishi.  VerHage said they saw the benefit of having a franchise attached to the dealer.

“The banks, the credit unions that you finance with, they look more favorably on the ‘A’ dealers than opposed to the used-car dealers,” he said.

Now, a couple years later, they are starting to see the payoff.

“Our new-car business has definitely gotten some strength in it.  In the last 90 days we’ve noticed it’s gotten nice and steady,” said VerHage.

This Holland dealership isn’t alone in seeing a turn around of sorts.

According to the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association, from January to November of 2011, 425,000 vehicles were sold in Michigan.

During that same time period of 2012, 452,000 were sold.

The increase of 27,000 vehicles is a sign to some that a real recovery may be around the bend.

“We’ve weathered the storm and holding strong and expecting nothing but the best,” said De Vries.

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