Auto boom: North Texas dealers look for banner year

2015 FCA US LLC Chrysler 200 vehicles, front, sit on display with other cars at the Key Auto Mall car dealership in Moline, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

A robust economy and a growing population are fueling an auto sales boom in North Texas that could produce another banner year for auto dealers.

Sales so far this year are up in North Texas, and several new dealership stores are expected to open, expand or relocate this year, particularly in the Tarrant County area.

“There is tremendous growth potential in DFW,” said Lee Chapman, president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan New Car Dealers Association, an industry trade group. “Lots of new companies are moving here and bringing their employees to the area.”

The same growth that is driving demand for home buying and homebuilding in the Dallas-Fort Worth market is driving auto sales despite some volatility in the market.

- FWBP Digital Partners -

The Associated Press reported that nationwide sales of cars, trucks and SUVs were down 6 percent in May compared to a year earlier, according to AutoData Corp., with General Motors’ sales dropping 18 percent year-to-year. Part of that drop was attributed to May 2016 having two fewer selling days.

After six straight years of growth, the market could be leveling off, but it could still break last year’s record of 17.5 million vehicles sold, according to the report.

Locally, the market showed a slowdown in April but sales still exceeded year-to-date sales for 2015, according to The Freeman Metroplex Recap of new-vehicle sales in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties. The April report, the latest available, is based on new car registrations.

The Freeman data showed sales down in each of the four counties in April for a combined total of 32,824 vehicles compared to 34,932 in April 2015. However, the year-to-date total for the four counties was 130,445 units compared with 121,817 for the same period in 2015.

- Advertisement -

In Tarrant County, 11,808 vehicles were sold in April compared with 12,043 in the same month last year. Through April this year, 44,263 vehicles were sold compared with 42,480 in the same period in 2015.

Jerry Reynolds, nationally syndicated talk show host of the Car Pro Show, cautioned against overreacting to monthly sales reports because of factors such as the number of Saturdays in the month and weather conditions, particularly rain and snow.

“The market is very strong and this will be a very good year,” he said.

Indications are that North Texas will outpace the Houston area for the first time, Reynolds said.

- Advertisement -

“Houston’s economy is so affected by oil prices but that is not as big a deal in North Texas,” Reynolds said.

About 35 percent of the vehicles sold in Texas are sold in North Texas, according to the Dallas-Fort Worth car dealers association, which represents about 220 dealers in Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Kaufman, Hood, Johnson, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant and Wise counties. They account for more than $10 billion in new and used-car sales annually.

The top-selling vehicles nationally in 2015 were the Ford F-series pickup, Chevrolet Silverado pickup and Ram pickup, according to Toyota Camry was again the best-selling car.

Lower gas prices contributed to a large increase in sales of SUVs nationally and in Texas.

“Last year was the first time that sales of sedans slipped below 50 percent,” Reynolds said. “People are switching to SUVs because they are becoming more fuel efficient and because of their appeal to an aging population.”

Baby Boomers prefer SUVs because of the ease of getting in and out, loading the back end and visibility compared with sedans, he said.

The same trends are apparent in the local market, which is also strong for luxury auto sales, Reynolds said.

Tarrant County is home to some of the largest auto dealerships in the United States and Texas, led by Classic Chevrolet of Grapevine, which received the No. 1 Volume Chevy Dealer in the USA award last year. Classic has received this award for nine of the last 10 years.

Also, Five Star Ford of North Richland Hills is the No. 1 Volume Ford Dealer in Texas and among the top five in the nation.

Due to the strength of the market, particularly in the Tarrant County area, several dealership changes are planned. Among them, Sam Pack, owner of Five Star Ford, is building a Subaru dealership in Grapevine and Dallas-based Park Place Dealerships is moving its Jaguar store from Plano to Grapevine and adding Land Rover to its offerings. Park Place already operates Lexus and Mercedes-Benz dealerships in Grapevine.

In December, Park Place also opened a new Mercedes-Benz dealership in south Arlington.

Sewell will open a new BMW dealership later this year in Grapevine, adjacent to its Cadillac dealership.

And in Weatherford, Roger Williams is relocating its Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealership to a new complex on a sprawling 18-acre site on Interstate 20. The new complex will have room for an expansion and will feature a precast concrete bridge spanning a creek that separates the new-car showroom from the used-car center.

“We’re taking advantage of arrangement to create a park-like setting for our customers to relax outside,” said Sabrina Williams, a managing partner of the dealership owned by her father, U.S. Rep. Roger Williams. “We are an animal-friendly business so this is a way for pet owners to bring their dogs and wait outside with them while their cars are being serviced.”

Williams, along with her sister, JJ, and mother, Patty, also managing partners, helped design the new dealership, which adds a softer, more feminine touch to the bold look of the red, black and silver colors of most Chrysler dealerships.

“We’re going with light blue and soft gray,” Williams said. “But we will have the Chrysler arch.”