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Sales for top-of-the-line autos steady for many dealers

Mississippians have not lost their appetite for luxury cars, large trucks and sport utility vehicles although some areas are seeing increased sales of smaller vehicles.

At Community Ford in New Albany, general manager Arnold Whitson observes that appetite for large SUVs is waning somewhat.

“The mid- to lower-size SUVs are selling well,” he said. “The Escape, a small sport SUV with a four-cylinder engine, is an example. It gives the satisfaction of an SUV but with good gas mileage. People are looking for great savings and something that still gives that outdoorsy feeling.”

Smaller new trucks and cars and medium size cars are selling well, too. Sales are healthy in smaller used vehicles at this dealership established in 1995, he adds, citing the Ford Fusion as an example.

“All of that is directly related to the price of gasoline and the vehicles,” Whitson said. “People see opportunities springing up around us with new industry and are waiting to see how the economy does. In some cases, customers do buy large SUVs out of necessity to replace vans.”

Big and luxury are still desirable in the Jackson metro area, according to two local automobile dealers.

“Business is good — sales are probably up by 15% to 20%,” said Edwin Vickery, general manager of Higginbotham Mercedes-Benz/Porsche of Jackson. “December is usually our best month of the year but in August we had our best month ever.”

He’s not sure why sales are up, but feels people still want quality cars, and points out that Mercedes has an entry-level car that starts around $30,000. “A lot of other cars loaded up are around that same price these days, but the re-sale value is better with a Mercedes,” he said, “So, wouldn’t you rather have a Mercedes-Benz?”

Gas mileage is improved with Mercedes, too, he says. The E Class gets 38 miles to the gallon.

Tommy McNeil, sales manager for Herrin-Gear Toyota in Jackson, reports good sales on Tundra, Toyota’s biggest new truck. “It’s growing so much. The sales on it increase every month,” he said. “It was just introduced and is the first time Toyota has had a truck this big.”

The Tundra will pull 10,000 pounds and is competitive with the big, fast, strong trucks made by other auto makers, he added. “It’s EPA rated and gets 21 miles per gallon on the highway,” he said. “Nationwide, the sales for it surpassed Camry one month this year.”

How often might someone in the city need to pull 10,000 pounds? McNeil laughed and said people in Mississippi just want a truck.

However, other SUVs — Tacoma, Four Runner and Sequoia — are still selling well too at Herrin-Gear.

In the luxury sports category, Porsches are selling at the Higginbotham dealership. “People want to scratch that itch to own a Porsche and sooner or later many do,” Edwin Vickery said. “They’re solid cars and have been rated number one in quality by J.D. Power & Associates.”

Although the two-seater is not a family car, he says the re-sale value of Porsches is good, too. “The engineering and durability of the Porsche and Mercedes are vital to their re-sale value,” he said.

There seems to be a trend back to the diesel-powered Mercedes. Vickery said it’s Mercedes’ answer to hybrid cars. There are now four different diesel models.

“The diesels are known for longevity,” he said. “Now you can’t hear it or smell it, and it performs better than gas.”

In Greenwood, Kitt Bryant, sales manager for Cannon Motors, says sales for large SUVs and Cadillacs have been up and down but remain good overall.

“When gas hit $3 a gallon, some people brought their big SUVs in and wanted smaller ones,” he said. “Then when gas went back down, they didn’t want the smaller SUVs because they didn’t have any room.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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