A looming, unavoidable downturn seemed to hang like a storm cloud as dealers headed to the 2019 NADA Show. A year later, it seems the skies are clearing.
Auto retailers generally seem more optimistic, as potential profits from used-vehicle sales and the service business, plus stronger economic trends, drive a rosier outlook for 2020.
"Going into 2019, there was a prediction that [we] may have a recession," said Lee Payne, owner of Planet Honda and Planet Hyundai stores in Golden, Colo. "The stock market took a big hit at the end of 2018, and I think that was a little bit of a hangover. ... Everybody was kind of waiting for the business to get bad. You don't hear that talk now."
A recession hasn't materialized, and macroeconomics have been generally favorable for auto retail. Dealers seem encouraged, for the most part. An Automotive News survey of 189 dealership executives shows general optimism about the business for 2020 — though dealers did express worry the presidential election could be a drag on results. And long term, they are concerned about the future of the franchised dealership model.
Nearly half of survey respondents said they expect their overall business to be better or much better in 2020. A little more than a third expect things to stay the same. About one of every seven respondents said they think business will be worse.