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Published: Sunday, 2/2/2014 - Updated: 6 months ago

Ford, Chevy year's top-selling vehicles in region

Silverado now parks in top sales spot

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Auto enthusiasts look over the vehicles at last year’s Toledo Auto Show. This year’s show is again at SeaGate Convention Centre. Auto enthusiasts look over the vehicles at last year’s Toledo Auto Show. This year’s show is again at SeaGate Convention Centre.
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Ford continued to be the area’s top-selling brand in 2013, but Chevrolet wrestled away the honors of having the year’s top-selling vehicle.

The Toledo Auto Dealers Association said area Chevrolet dealers sold 641 Silverado pickups to buyers in Lucas and Wood counties last year, a 14 percent increase from 2012. That helped push the Silverado, recently named 2014 North American Truck of The Year, ahead of the Ford F-Series to become the area’s No. 1 seller.

Ford’s F-Series remained the best-selling vehicle in America in 2013, a position it has held for 32 years running, and a new F-150 is coming for the 2015 model year. But for now, the Silverado, redesigned for the 2014 model year, is the newest truck in the stable.

Joe Mehling, the general manager at Dave White Chevrolet, said sales of the Silverado were helped early in the year because General Motors Co. offered generous incentives to sell down inventory of 2013 models. The new model is selling just fine on its own.

“It’s been very, very well received,” Mr. Mehling said. “They’ve made all the necessary changes as far as the ride and the comfort. It’s unbelievably quiet. It feels like you’re driving a car. The fuel economy has increased greatly. There’s a lot of positive improvements they've made.”

The U.S. auto industry had a strong year in 2013, with sales up 8 percent. Local results, however, appear mixed.

The Toledo Auto Dealers Association said the 28 new-car dealerships in the immediate Toledo area collectively sold 25,773 new vehicles in 2013, a 4 percent increase from 2012. The association is made up of 25 Toledo-area car dealerships, though it also tracks sales from regional nonmembers.

But based on what the association reported, fewer of those sales went to local buyers. Officials said sales to Lucas and Wood county residents were down 11 percent last year to 16,030.

Data from the Lucas County Clerk of Courts title office, however, put the number of vehicles titled in Lucas County at 23,872 — an increase of 5 percent from 2012.

The reason for the discrepancy between what the association reported and the official county number could not be explained.

In any case, Dan Zinni, a spokesman for the Toledo Auto Dealers Association, said the year was good to local dealers.

“Almost to a T, everybody I’ve spoken to said 2013 was very, very good for their dealerships,” he said. “Our guys see more of the same in 2014 coming. We’re looking at this as a positive step, and we think it’ll keep going forward.”

Ford Motor Co. and Chevrolet were the top two brands locally, as buyers continue to prefer domestic vehicles. Dodge held the third spot, while Honda and Toyota were fourth and fifth, according to the association. The order was unchanged from 2012.

Most of the top-selling vehicles were also from one of the Detroit Three companies. The Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200 continue to be the top-selling cars. The Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox, and Dodge Journey also sold well. The Honda Accord was the best-selling car from a foreign automaker; however, Honda builds its Accords in central Ohio.

While the new Fusion has been a huge success for Ford, the aging 200 is much more of a regional car that enjoys its success in the Midwest and struggled against the likes of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. California auto analysts say a 200 is rarely seen on the West Coast. Chrysler hopes that will change with the 2015 200 that it introduced last month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The new 200 is sleeker, more athletic, and has a roof-line reminiscent of an Audi design. The vehicle, which should start showing up in dealerships in late spring, gets a 9-speed transmission, optional all-wheel drive, and up to 35 miles per gallon on the highway.

“We needed this car,” Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler Group LLC’s chief, said last week on a conference call. “The initial reactions to this car have been phenomenal.”

Ford also has been on a run with new products and plans to continue that in 2014, launching 23 new products, including a new Mustang and the F-150.

Brian Shephard, sales manager at Mathews Ford Oregon, said having new products has made a big difference. He also said that the government’s auto bailout — and that Ford didn’t take any money — still factors into some buyers’ decision-making.

“It still makes a difference. People are still talking about it,” he said. “But quality is the big thing.”

The Fusion and Escape are Matthews Ford’s top-sellers. Mr. Shephard said Fusion sales have also been helped by Ford's decision to start making them in Michigan at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant.

Dealers are also hoping to get a boost this month from the Greater Toledo Auto Show, which opens Thursday and runs through Feb. 9.

“We do see a marked increase in traffic and sales in the two to four weeks after it. It is a good venue for people to make their mind up,” said Paul Devers, owner of Vin Devers Autohaus of Sylvania.

The show, again at the SeaGate Convention Centre downtown, will feature autos and motorcycles from 25 manufacturers. Organizers don’t have a tally of the exact number of vehicles that will be on display, but last year the show had more than 160.

Most vehicles will be 2014 model year, though the show is expected to get at least one 2015 model.

Mr. Devers said Audi will show the new 2015 A3 sedan, which made its North American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show late last year. The A3 will be Audi’s smallest car, and has pricing that starts just under $30,000.

“We’re excited to have that,” Mr. Devers said. "That’s the counterpart to the Mercedes CLA, which was debuted a few months ago and basically sold out.”

The CLA, which went on sale last fall with a starting sticker price of $29,900, has sold well and helped bring new buyers to the Mercedes Benz brand. The CLA will be on display at the show.

Other highlighted vehicles expected to be on display are the recently redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Corvette, the 2014 Ford F-150 Raptor, the 2014 Lexus LS 460, the Lincoln MKZ, and the new Toledo-built Jeep Cherokee. A complete list of vehicles isn’t yet available, organizers said.

The show’s attendance data isn’t public, but organizers said it was essentially flat last year after a 29 percent hike from 2011 to 2012.

Toledo’s show isn’t meant to have the glitzy glamour of shows like Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. Instead it lets prospective buyers get a real chance to look at what’s out there.

“It’s quite a nice event that allows people to beat the hectic crowd the Detroit auto show had and actually sit in cars,” Mr. Devers said.

A preview gala on Wednesday will raise money for scholarships and several area charities to help children.

The Auto Dealers United for Kids event is expected to raise between $200,000 and $250,000.

The group is partnering with Hollywood Casino Toledo to participate in a gaming night theme. Hollywood Casino donated several raffle prizes. Tickets are $250 each.

Tickets to the auto show itself are $6 for adults, $4 for students and seniors 55 years of age and older, and free for children under 12.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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