According to a Bloomberg news report, the nationwide auto industry is on its best sales streak since 1973.
Consumers have been driving off the lot with new cars, motoring sales growth to at least 10 percent in three straight years — a feat that hasn't been accomplished in four decades.
And with an estimated 14.5 million sales, 2012 ranked as the best year for new cars since 2007.
Analysts point to several possible reasons for accelerated sales. Superstorm Sandy is estimated to be responsible for about 50,000 vehicle purchase decisions in December. An aging fleet — the average age of cars on the road is 10.8 years — may have also encouraged new car purchases. Rock-bottom interest rates are an incentive in many cases.
Experts expect sales to continue motoring upward. Market research firm Polk projects new vehicle sales this year will top 15.3 million, up from 14.5 million in 2012.
Max Machuta, general manager of Preferred Ford, 1401 S. Beacon Blvd. in Grand Haven, said he concurs with the national analysis. He was in the business 40 years ago and he said it's a similar ride.
Machuta said sales have increased 400 percent in the past several years. He expects another 15 to 20 percent jump in 2013.
“We're very excited about the direction the business is taking,” Machuta said. “It absolutely is following the national trend. Things are looking better and brighter. I think there's optimism on the part of the people in this area.”
Machuta believes the automotive industry drives not only Michigan's economy, but the national economy as well.
“Some of the politicians will say housing drives it," he said. "I will tell you automotive drives housing and it snowballs from there.”
The federal government's “cash for clunkers” program in 2009 jumpstarted the sales resurgence, Machuta said. The program offered up to $4,500 for the trade-in of an old vehicle to purchase a newer fuel-efficient model.
“That was probably the impetus that began the increase,” Machuta said. “That was really the spark. It helped not only the auto industry, but the economy.”
To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.