Truck sales are down significantly, but dealers say that service work, creative financing and low inventories are helping to keep their doors open.
Start with an economy in recession. Add the most serious credit crunch in memory. What will that do for light-duty and medium-duty truck sales? An assortment of dealers interviewed for this story indicate they are holding their own – and many are finding creative routes around the problems posed by the economy.
But no one can deny that it’s a tough time to be a truck dealer, and the incoming chairman of American Truck Dealers makes no attempt to sugarcoat things.
“I expect it to remain at depressed levels,” said Kyle Treadway, president of Kenworth Sales Co., Salt Lake City, and incoming president of the ATD, which is part of the National Automotive Dealers Association.
As is usually the case with truck dealers, back-end operations like part sales and maintenance are the real profit generators, and sales themselves are a customer-relationship builder as much as anything else. But in the current economic environment, back-end operations are essential to survival.
“A number of our officers who sell all brands are advising me that their service business is busy, and that’s how they’re keeping the lights on,” said Jim Westlake, executive director of the ATD. “Fixed operations are keeping these dealerships absolutely viable. It sure isn’t happening, as you can see, with sales. Sales is not where it’s going on.”