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Area car dealer sets sales record for the Valley

By Don Shilling

Monday, January 20, 2003

A combination of three car lines helped the local dealer become the top seller of GM cars in the state.
BOARDMAN -- A Boardman car dealer set a sales record for the Mahoning Valley last year even though total sales for the region slipped.
Youngstown Buick-Pontiac-GMC Truck sold 5,044 new and used vehicles, an increase of 16 percent from 2001.
"I'm sure we've never had a dealer sell 5,000 vehicles in a year," said Steve Chos, executive vice president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Eastern Ohio.
Even in the Valley's boom times before the steel mill closings, dealership sales were lower because dealers sold only one line of cars, he said.
New lines
David Sweeney, dealership president, said adding Pontiac and GMC to its long-standing Buick line certainly has helped expand sales.
The Sweeney family bought the GMC line from the former Truck Headquarters of Boardman in 1986 and bought the Pontiac line from the former Greenwood Pontiac in Boardman in 1996.
Moving from Wick Avenue in Youngstown to Market Street in Boardman in 1986 also provided a boost in total sales because the dealership had room to offer used vehicles.
Last year was so successful that the dealership was the largest single-site seller of General Motors vehicles in the state, a GM sales report says.
Sweeney said the combination of the three lines allows the dealership to beat out others in larger cities. Few dealerships have the Buick-Pontiac-GMC combination, although GM has recently decided that it wants to place those brands together, he said. Chevrolet and Cadillac are to be on their own under the plan, and Oldsmobile is being phased out.
One big advantage these days is that each of the Boardman dealership's three lines has a sport-utility vehicle.
"People want SUVs, and we have a lot to offer with all three lines," he said.
Buick is positioned as a conservative line within GM, but its Rendezvous, a small SUV, is proving popular with younger buyers, Sweeney said. The Rendezvous accounts for 40 percent of the dealership's Buick sales.
Sweeney credited the dealership's increase in sales last year mostly to GM's decision to offer zero-percent financing and other incentives in order to keep up car sales despite a sluggish economy. The dealership sold about 3,200 new vehicles last year, which was a 32 percent increase.
Sweeney said the dealership boosted its inventory at the start of 2002 with the expectation that GM would keep the incentives coming. The dealership had nearly 1,100 new vehicles on the lot last week.
The incentives didn't boost sales at all dealerships, however.
New car sales slipped 2 percent in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties last year to 32,200. Sales peaked at 38,400 in 1999.
Used-car sales fell 3 percent last year to 27,200. The best year for used-car sales was 1997 with 30,900.
Chos said financing deals from automakers didn't draw as many people into dealerships as they did the year before.
He declined to call 2002 a bad year, however. Looking at the condition of the local and national economy last year, a small decline in car sales wasn't bad, he added.