Lehigh Valley

Car dealers optimistic about rebounding economy

Car dealers optimistic about rebounding economy

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - You can count car dealers among those who are looking forward to the first day of spring. That's the day the Greater Lehigh Valley Auto Show opens, and for those in the car business, hopes are high for a strong sales year.

Car sales have been sluggish since the economic turmoil in 2007, but the numbers were good last year, and dealers said they are on course to be even better as consumer confidence rebounds.

New cars will be on display at the Greater Lehigh Valley Auto Show at Lehigh University's Goodman Campus in Bethlehem.

"It's a great opportunity for them to learn about the cars in a very relaxed, non stressed environment," said Tom Kwiatek, the show's executive director.

But this year, the auto industry is the most optimistic it's been since the economic downturn of 2007.

"This spring market looks to be gang busters in this industry," said Dean Rothrock, vice president of Rothrock Motor Sales.

Rothrock said that optimism is boosted by what's called "pent up demand." The idea is that people have put off buying cars and now that the economy is back, the car buyers will follow.

Rothrock said dealerships have lost some sales this year because of weather, but said this past weekend's warmer temperatures brought customers out in droves.

Rothrock said he believes the same thing will happen at the auto show and its opening gala, which will donate a minimum of $25,000 to St. Luke's Health Star Community Health Care Van program.

"We are providing over 9,000 visits to children and families that otherwise would not be able to access care," said Dr. Bonnie Coyle, St. Luke's director of community health.

Rothrock said dealers are so optimistic that 2014 will be the return to the year of the car that his dealership has hired more employees.

"We have people now saying, 'I feel better, the economy is better, my job is better, I can start spending money,'" said Rothrock.

The Greater Lehigh Valley Auto Show gala is March 19, with the auto show running through March 23.

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