FOX47 NEWS - Car-buying Incentives

Jeff Angileri
Feb 26, 2009, 10:14 PM

Auto manufacturers' woes are trickling down to local car dealers.

According to Reg-Trak, in Dane County alone, new car sales were down 31% in January compared to one year ago.

Despite the numbers, optimistic car dealers say they're poised to offer consumers some of the best deals in years.

It could be a great time to buy a new car.

Our dealers are just bending over backwards to accommodate their customers, said Bill Sepic, president of the Wisconsin Automobile & Truck Dealers Association.

Dealers hammered by the recession are eager to make sales and move inventory off their lots. They're offering employee pricing, cash rebates, and now tax deductions thanks to the stimulus bill.

It'll be several hundred dollars for each individual that purchases a $25,000 car, said J.R. Smart, president of Smart Motors.

There are phenomenal deals, said Sepic, Whether it's new cars, used cars, or even year-old vehicles.

Despite the incentives, weathering a tough economy is proving just as tough as surviving two harsh, back-to-back Wisconsin winters.

It kept people hibernating, and paralyzed, but we're starting to see that come around right now. Smart said.

But browsing isn't necessarily leading to buying. Statewide, in January, new car registrations were down 35% compared to last year, according to Reg-Trak. Part of the reason -- consumer confidence is at an all time low. Dealers hope competitive pricing, tax breaks, and better weather will usher more traffic into showrooms.

Said Sepic, It's being optimistic. It's knowing that you're confident you'll have a job in six months or twelve months before you make those substantial purchases.

Experts think February sales will be much better than January. Sepic says Wisconsin dealers are in a great position to do well in 2009. He says dealers have not overextended themselves, and have great relationships with their financial institutions -- which is crucial when shopping around for car loans for customers.

Local dealerships will not get any stimulus money directly -- consumers are getting the tax breaks -- and auto makers are getting money to retool factories.

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