Car sales rough in Silicon Valley

November 3, 2008 8:18:23 PM PST
The sting is not as bad in Silicon Valley as it is nationally; auto sales among the 64 dealers in the area are down 19 percent, compared to General Motors - down a staggering 45 percent last month, Ford - down 30 percent, Honda - down 25 percent and Toyota - down 23 percent.

Piercey Toyota general sales manager Brian Ressler points to nervous customers.

"Consumer fear about spending money is what I think is depressing the whole market," Ressler. "I don't think it's due to what the economy really is in the Bay Area. I think it's due to consumer confidence."

Toyota's zero percent financing on some models is stimulating some sales. There has even been some interest in sport utility vehicles again with the recent drop in gas prices.

However, the president of the Silicon Valley Auto Dealers Association thinks car makers have some work to do.

"They need to re-tool their facilities," Steve Smith said. "They need to get those hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles to lower their carbon footprint if you will. For a lot of people, I think they're more interested in that right now, and that's what they really need to push."

Consumer confidence may also get a boost once there's a president-elect.

"When that election rolls around tomorrow, I think that's going to be one card dealt off the deck, and I think it's going to get better, quicker rather than longer," Ressler said.

Leon Panetta, former Chief of Staff for President Clinton, thinks the next administration will work fast to put its economic team in place.

"If you put a very solid team in place - your economic team, Secretary of the Treasury, strong Secretary of Commerce; if you do that, that sends a very important signal that you've got good, capable people who will be able to help you run the economy," Panetta said.

Industry analysts say November is usually a slow month for car sales, while December is one of the best. By that time, however, it is possible that Detroit's Big 3 might number only two.


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