Year-in-review: Baton Rouge new vehicle sales rise, bucking national trend

While experts expect vehicle sales to be down for the year across the country, local dealers and sales tax figures indicate it was a good year in Baton Rouge. 

Eric Lane, president of Gerry Lane Enterprises in Baton Rouge, says despite the pandemic, he’s seen both new and used vehicles sell on his lots better than the last three years. 

“The 2016 flood really hurt Baton Rouge a lot and sales went down in 2017 and 2018, about 20 percent a year,” Lane says. “We started recovering in 2019, and in 2020 the recovery continued in spite of the epidemic. 

Lane says the flood flipped the market and put local dealers in a recession, which they have emerged from even amid the pandemic. 

While nationwide, new vehicle sales are projected to be down nearly 15% for the year compared to 2019, vehicle tax collections for the city-parish have been mostly higher compared to last year. Although figures were down significantly during the peak of the pandemic in April and May, vehicle tax collections were up 10% and 18% for September and October, respectively, which are the most recent months that data is available. Through October, vehicle sales tax collections for the city-parish were up 4% year-over-year. 

In September, Baton Rouge-area car dealers told Daily Report they were seeing an uptick in used car sales after a pause on new car manufacturing in the spring shrank inventories across the country. With fewer new cars to choose from, buyers have increasingly closed deals on used vehicles. 

Sellers also pointed to the spring’s stimulus checks as helping boost car sales. 

Citing a large degree of uncertainty regarding next year, Lane says he’s not predicting how 2021 will go. Between the distribution of the coronavirus vaccines, possible future stimulus payments and a new presidential administration taking the Oval Office, there’s too many variables on the table for the next 12 months to try and make any predictions. 

“We’re just taking it one day at a time,” Lane says. “There’s so many variables.”