“You’re not seeing what we call ‘tire kickers,'” says Ann Arbor Automotive president Doug Fox. But though the window-shoppers are staying home, Fox says, Ann Arbor’s high levels of education and income have provided some insulation from global car-sales collapse. Though automakers are reporting sales declines of 30 to 50 percent in recent months, business at his Hyundai-Nissan-Acura store, says Fox, “is just not off as much.” In fact, despite the credit clampdown, he actually ran short of Acura SUVs over the winter.
This spring, he’s seen a lot of traffic—”I’m not saying sales, I’m saying traffic”—in response to Hyundai’s “assurance plus” campaign, which offers to temporarily cover payments if buyers lose their income. And he’s got another ace in the hole: “the Hyundai Kia technical center [in Superior Township]—we see a lot of employees or engineers that work there. I have a salesperson who’s Asian and speaks three dialects of Chinese.”