3 things buyers will love about 2013 -- and 3 they'll hate

Other blogs
Related Links
Related Stories
Related Topics

With 2012 U.S. auto sales in the books, we're three days into a 2013 that doesn't look too bad. Virtually everybody is assuming continued sales growth, though a bit slower.

Savor that thought just a moment. We've had three straight years of double-digit gains. And over the long feast-or-famine history of this industry, that's rare.

Any growth we get this year ought to be duly appreciated.

But more importantly, let's realize that dealers are no longer selling to a crowd with ravenous appetites. It's a pretty normal marketplace these days, not driven by extraordinary events.

Which is to say, little things are more important. What will move the market this year? I see three things potential buyers might love, and three they'll probably hate.

What they'll love:

No. 3: Low-cost financing is widely available again. And it's likely to stay that way all year.

No. 2: There's a bunch of spiffy new products, especially fuel-efficient models. That includes nearly all mid-sized cars and the redesigned 2013 Ram and 2014 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra are about to shake up the big pickup segment.

No. 1: Swapping out their clunkers. Yep, our rides average 11 years on the road. Once a buyer finally decides to get a new one, new-car fever gets irresistible quickly.

And what they'll hate:

No. 3: The jobless recovery. That stubbornly high unemployment rate, still near 8 percent after all this time, makes buyers pause.

No. 2: Less cash to spend. No, not the high income-tax rates on those making more than $450,000, but the end of the two-year, 2 percent Social Security tax holiday. With FICA tax rates back to normal, a prospect earning $60,000 has $100 a month less take-home to plunk down on a new car.

No. 1: The never-ending drama that is our political system. Now, auto buyers have gotten pretty good at ignoring Congress lately. But averting the fiscal cliff Jan. 1 only to have Congress schedule two new fist fights in the next 60 days on budget cuts and the debt ceiling? That's downright wearing.

You can reach Jesse Snyder at jsnyder@crain.com.

Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.

Or submit an online comment below. (Terms and Conditions)