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Driver’s seat: Auto sales waver in North Texas as they fall across the country

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Vehicle sales in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties

2016 398,451 new cars and trucks

2015 389,340 new cars and trucks

Tarrant County sales

2016 137,952 new cars and trucks

2015 137,646 new cars and trucks

Source: Freeman Report

Population and economic growth in North Texas, combined with low gas prices and affordable interest rates, is expected to produce another robust year for auto sales.

Across the country, car and truck sales were down 2.1 percent during the first six months of the year, the first decrease since the financial crisis ended in 2009, according to the Associated Press.

Sales in North Texas are also wavering slightly but remain mostly steady, according to local industry insiders.

“Keep in mind that 2016 was the best year in automotive history,” said Jerry Reynolds, nationally syndicated talk show host of Car Pro Show, who is based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “Before that, 2015 was the best year ever and 2017 is shaping up to be like that.”

Auto executives and industry analysts are not panicking about the modest drop.

A year ago, May 2016 car, truck and SUV sales dropped 6 percent according to an Associated Press report based on a research by AutoData Corp.

“New and used sales are strong,” said Lee Chapman, president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan New Car Dealers Association. “A lot of the pent up demand coming off the recession has been taken care of.

“We’re getting back into a more stable cycle,” Chapman said. “But with all the new companies relocating here, new residents are coming in who need or want to buy a new car.”

New vehicle sales in North Texas shows that 398,451 new cars and trucks were sold in 2016 compared to 389,340 in 2015, according to the Freeman Metroplex Recap, which tracks new-vehicle sales in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties based on new car registrations. Sales figures include domestic and import vehicles.

Dallas led the four counties with 160,135 in 2016 compared to 156,326 in 2015. In Tarrant County, 137,952 vehicles were sold in 2016 compared to 137,646 in 2015, according to the Freeman Report.

The strength of new vehicle sales continues to bring new dealerships to Tarrant County, particularly the State Highway 114/121 corridor. Three new luxury auto dealerships recently opened in Grapevine and more are planned.

“Grapevine has become the mecca for all things luxury auto,” said Ponce Duran, director of communications for the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce. The city in northeast Tarrant County is home to 14 dealerships, although not all are luxury brands, he said.

Classic Chevrolet, which opened in 1988, has long been ranked No. 1 in the nation for Chevy sales.

The Grapevine newcomers are DFW Audi, Sewell BMW of Grapevine and Park Place Jaguar Land Rover.

DFW Audi relocated from Euless during the spring and Park Place relocated its Jaguar and added Land Rover to its brand for its new Grapevine dealership, which opened July 1. Sewell BMW of Grapevine opened June 27.

Dallas-based Park Place closed its Fort Worth Maserati dealership in 2016 due to lackluster sales but continues to pursue Tarrant County as a location for its luxury brands.

Park Place operates five dealerships in Tarrant County: Park Place Motorcars Mercedes-Benz dealerships in Grapevine, Arlington and Fort Worth; Park Place Lexus and the new Jaguar Land Rover dealership in Grapevine.

“Northeast Tarrant County has been growing at a great rate since we opened the Lexus dealership in 2000,” Ken Schnitzer, chairman of Park Place Dealerships, said in a statement. “We moved our Mercedes-Benz dealership from the mid-cities to Grapevine in 2012 and we recently broke ground on a Porsche dealership which we plan to open [in Grapevine] next year.”

Mac Churchill has also applied for a franchise to open a new Acura dealership in Grapevine, a spokesman said.

“Grapevine is a great location because it is close to the [Dallas Fort Worth International] airport and is centrally located between Dallas and Fort Worth,” the Grapevine Chamber’s Duran said. “It is also easily accessible for people coming from Frisco and those growing communities up north.”

Park Place spokeswoman Carolyn Alvey said the organization would continue looking at Tarrant County as a destination for new luxury dealerships. Upscale developments such as Clearfork and Walsh Ranch on the west side of Fort Worth will fuel demand for Park Place’s brands, she said.

New vehicle sales across the country topped 17.5 million in 2016 and are expected to reach between 16.8 and 17.3 million this year, according to Autotrader, the Associated Press reported.

The Car Pro’s Reynolds said sales trends this year continue to follow familiar patterns with sedans further losing ground and SUVs continuing to rise in rise in popularity among buyers young and old.

“SUVs are way up in sales this year because there are so many more choices, the have better fuel economy and drivers like the visibility they provide better,” Reynolds said.

Car and Driver ranked the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 as the top selling SUVs in 2016. So far this year, the Nissan Rogue is surging ahead of the pack in sales for the first time, Reynolds said.

Meanwhile, sales of sedans are expected to slip to about 40 percent of the market, he said. Toyota Camry led this group at the fourth best-selling vehicle in 2016 with sales of 355,204, according to Car and Driver.

Sales of pickup trucks again led the market in 2016 with the Ford F-series as the top selling vehicle with 733,287 units sold. The Chevy Silverado came in second with 520,604 units sold and Ram Pickup with 441,862 units sold was No. 3, according to Car and Driver.

Sales data from the beginning of the year indicate that Ram Pickup is gaining ground on the Silverado, Reynolds said.

“Ram has outsold Silverado in three months of this year,” he said. “This is the first time in my memory that happened.”

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