Jan. 09--A year of surging car sales ended in a slow December, but 2013 was still a boom year for La Crosse area car dealers.
New car and truck registrations increased 13.7 percent from 2012 to 2013 in La Crosse County. Local dealers credit the recovering economy for the strong year and for creating a stable workforce willing to invest in new vehicles.
"People are spending money again," said Sean Green, general manager and co-owner of Ballweg Midwest Toyota. "Besides our government deciding to shut down, I think for the most part things have been pretty good."
Ballweg and other dealers in the region are banking on the surge to continue in 2014, despite a stagnant December.
New car registrations dropped just 0.34 percent from December 2012 in the county, but other parts of the region fared worse. Monthly totals dropped 15 percent in Crawford County, about 18 percent in Trempealeau County and nearly 30 percent in Vernon County.
Bob Wall noticed car sales deflate a bit in December at Clason Buick-GMC, but he doesn't see the dip as a bad omen. Sales totals can vary during the holiday season, said the sales manager.
"When you compete with Santa Claus, it's always a toss up," Wall said.
Like Wall, Green expects car sales to continue their upward trajectory in 2014. Ballweg is spending nearly
$1 million on a 4,000-square-foot addition that will create more space for servicing vehicles.
Car sales were up nationally in 2013, rising 8 percent to 15.6 million. Both General Motors and Toyota posted a 7 percent increase in U.S. car sales.
In the Coulee Region, new vehicle registrations were up 10.2 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to a report from Reg-Trak Inc. of Waterloo, Wis.
The report shows across-the-board increases for
La Crosse, Monroe, Vernon, Trempealeau, Jackson and Crawford counties. However, Crawford and Jackson counties experienced year-to-year gains of about 13 percent, while Vernon County experienced just a 4.1-percent increase and Monroe County just 3.2 percent.
Chrysler and Nissan posted 9 percent gains in U.S. sales. Among smaller automakers, Subaru was a star, with a 26 percent increase in sales. Only Volkswagen struggled, with sales falling 7 percent as its vehicles aged compared with rivals.
Ford led all major automakers in 2013 with an 11 percent sales gain to almost 2.5 million vehicles.
Car sales increased thanks to a surge in pickup truck sales from the home construction and energy services. Coulee Region dealers reflected the trend, with new truck sales accounting for the bulk of the local boom.
Truck sales increased 17.5 percent in La Crosse County, 19.5 percent in Jackson County and 25 percent in Crawford County. Local truck sales also include all SUVs, but the Ford F-series pickup was the country's best-selling vehicle last year, with 763,402 sold.
"The Ford (F-150) has been the No. 1 selling truck for a long time here," said Chad Hubert, sales manager for Dahl Ford in Onalaska.
Sizable rebates on Ford trucks -- up to $7,250 -- likely sparked interest in new car buyers and contributed to the increase in truck sales, Hubert said.
Buyers like SUVs and trucks for safety and versatility, especially now because newer models are more likely to cost less at the pump, Wall said.
"The fuel economy has gotten better," Wall said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.