Capital Region Chrysler dealers say January sales have improved after experiencing one of the worst sales drops in recent memory in the second half of 2008. They still anticipate a challenging year ahead, however, with at least one dealer having dropped the Chrysler franchise and others planning on smaller inventories, more strategic advertising and heavy promotions.
Harvest Ford Lincoln Mercury in Plaquemine closed its Chrysler franchise last year, Manager Chuck Statham says, adding that lower sales pointed to lessening consumer confidence in the product, which he believes was connected to the automaker’s financial instability and federal bailout.
Sales have increased at All Star Dodge in Denham Springs. “We’re actually doing pretty well with the incentives that Ford and Chrysler have right now,” General Manager Buddy Wells says. “Business is pretty good.” Wells says customers with good credit are getting loans, and he anticipates sales this month will equal or better January 2008. “As a dealer group we’re financially sound, and I think the majority of Baton Rouge dealers will be here to serve the consumers who buy the cars,” he says. “I don’t foresee the Baton Rouge auto industry crumbling.”
Wayne Pevito, who is manager of the Brian Harris Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership on Airline Highway anticipates sales will improve by mid-year, particularly as the credit crunch eases. He also says President-elect Barack Obama will play a role in an economic comeback. “If he does good, I think we’ll do good,” Pevito says. Financially troubled Chrysler and GM received a federal bailout earlier this month. Chrysler maintained consumers would not buy its vehicles if the corporation sought bankruptcy protection.—Anna Thibodeaux