Car saleswoman Cathy Banowetz shows customer Keith Fogel the features of a new Toyota at the McEleney Toyota dealership in Clinton. New vehicle registration increased in 2011 in Iowa and Clinton County, according to figures recently released by the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association.

Natalie Conrad/Clinton Herald
Herald Staff Writer

More Iowa residents are buying new cars, a sign that the economy is getting better. In 2011, Iowans registered 118,653 new vehicles, up 14 percent from 2010, marking the best year since 2007, according to the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association.

“Those tough days of hard‐to‐get car loans and a limited supply of new vehicles seem to be behind us,” Bruce Anderson, president of IADA, said. “The advances in automobile technology, including fuel efficiency and passenger safety are astounding, and Iowans are taking advantage of these great new features by purchasing new cars.”

Registrations in 2011 boasted double‐digit gains for both cars and trucks, bringing the numbers back to pre‐recession levels, despite what many thought would be a challenging year for auto sales, according to IADA. This, plus an aging fleet, bodes well for the industry — and the economy —in 2012.

Clinton County has seen an increase in new car sales as well. In 2011, there were 520 new cars sold along with 910 new trucks compared with 500 cars and 885 trucks in 2010. The total new cars sold in 2011 were 1,430 up from 1,385 in 2010. However, the new car sales in Clinton County in 2011 did not come close to the 1,623 new car sales in 2007. New car sales in Clinton County were higher in 2008 with 1,734 new car sales.

Clinton dealership McEleney Chevrolet Buick GMC Toyota has also seen a strong increase in sales, according to owner John McEleney. He said there has been a significant increase in sales of the General Motors vehicles over 2011 and it has continued into 2012. General Motors sales were up 15 percent in 2011 from sales in 2010. McEleney says most of the increase occurred during the last six months of 2011, in which there was an increase in sales each month. In January, the sales have been 10 percent ahead of January 2011. The company is expecting to see another increase of 15 percent in 2012 from 2011 sales.

Toyota sales at McEleneys did not have such a significant increase, due to manufacturing issues related to natural disasters. This caused the dealership to not be able to have their usual stock of Toyota cars during part of 2011. The dealership has returned to normal in their stock of Toyota cars and expects to see an increase in sales in 2012 as well, according to McEleney.

McEleney says the increase in new car sales is a result of people delaying purchases and keeping their vehicles longer.

“People are getting back in the market,” McEleney said. “The average age of a car now is 11 years. People have held onto their cars longer and now with interest rates extremely low, they are finding that it’s a great time to buy a car.”

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