2013 auto sales expected to improve

Local and national dealers saw high numbers in December, expect sales to continue

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's another good indicator the economy is improving -- the country's largest vehicle retailer just reported its sales were up 15 percent last month.

The increase is a sign the industry will do well in 2013.

The two big dealers Channel 4 spoke with have sales increases that make AutoNation's record numbers look small.

It's fantastic news for those in the car industry and people in the marker for a new car in 2013 -- sales are way up.

At least two of Northeast Florida's largest dealerships, including Keith Pierson Toyota, are seeing these sales increases.

"We're very optimistic about 2013," Keith Pierson of Keith Pierson Toyota said. "Everything is looking great. The product line up is perfect. We can get all the cars we need. And customers -- people are starting to realize the world is not coming to an end."

Improving consumer confidence and bigger inventories on dealership lots are giving the car industry a big boost at the start of the year.

"You know, this is two or three years in a row of very solid growth," Vice President of Bozard Ford Lincoln Jeff King said. "As a matter of fact, we're planning on expanding our service department with some new construction to handle the additional customer volume."

AutoNation is the largest vehicle retailer in the United States. It's now reporting a 15 percent gain in December sales, a 20 percent increase for the entire year over 2011.

The numbers for dealers in Northeast Florida are no exception.

Pierson said sales at his Toyota dealership are up 25 percent over last year.

At Bozard Ford Lincoln, it's good news, too. Te dealership hit its record sales month in December, selling 300 cars.

With packed lots and people feeling more comfortable about making bigger purchases, things are shaping up for a great year in the auto industry.

"The factories are now kind of ramped up to the amount of production that's necessary to support 14 or 15 million car sales a year and we now have the inventory to support the growth that we're talking about," King said.

Last year, 14.5 million vehicles were sold, the highest sales volume in the United States in the last five years.

For 2013, AutoNation predicts more than 15 million will be sold.