ETX auto market on the mend could bring payoff for new car buyers

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Car lots around East Texas are looking very different than just a few years ago.

"We're excited to still be here, a lot of dealers didn't make it," Southern Chrysler Dodge Jeep Sales Manager Dwayne Stewart said. "Fortunately for Lufkin all the dealers did make it."

"A lot of lending tightened up," Perry Ellis Kia Owner & General Manager Shad Ellis said. "A lot of people decided to keep their car a little bit longer and just keep maintaining it. Those people are now tired of their cars and now they're upgrading and getting a new car."

Ellis took over the Lufkin Kia dealership in February.

He said business has been good. However, local dealers remember a time not too long ago, when the car market was struggling.

"I mean we dropped so much, the whole marketplace with the government having to bail out the banks and the mortgage companies and the car dealers, we dropped about 66 percent as far as car sales nationwide," Stewart said.

The market is on the mend, dealerships are filling back up, and cars are rolling off the lots.

In fact, one Lufkin dealer said December was one of their best months last year.

"The lending institutions have loosened up a little bit since '08 and we all know what kind of year '08 was," Stewart said.

"Christmas was great," Ellis said. "Kia ran out of 11 models in July, so we only had 12 models, so we didn't have end of the year clearance sale or anything."

He said more than half their customers are walking out with new cars, the rest are buying used.

A lot of East Texans ditched their gas guzzlers for fuel efficient vehicles. Although that trend is not likely to change over the next few years, East Texans are still willing to pay the difference for their trucks.

East Texas dealers have a long way before returning to the numbers of 2007, before a tanking economy and empty car lots. They say they're on the path to recovery and hoping this year brings a full comeback.

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