Buyers in the Dallas area, previously one of the strongest new car markets in the U.S., postponed purchases last year as unemployment rose and the values of their houses fell. Many banks balked at financing car and truck sales, demanding higher down payments and better credit scores. The new vehicle market in Dallas-Fort Worth was actually weaker than the car and truck market nationally. Sales in the U.S. dropped 21 percent in 2009 from 2008.
Drew Campbell, who recently retired as president of the New Car Dealers Association of Metropolitan Dallas, said this area was slower to slide into recession than the U.S. as a whole and its recovery will lag the nation's.
In 2008, for example, new car and truck sales in Dallas-Fort Worth declined a relatively modest 13.8 percent.
"The reality is it's still hard for dealers to finance people," Campbell said. "People are just not coming into dealerships like they were."
He believes the sales numbers will at least look better this year because the economy should improve slightly and sales will be compared with the weak quarters in 2009.
"National sales are improving some, and we're always a little behind," Campbell said.
"It's going to be an interesting year, but I think we'll see some improvement."