Local car dealers are looking to the Houston Auto Show to rev up buyer interest as sales of new vehicles are slowing down.
Hundreds of shiny new cars, trucks and SUVs rolled into the cavernous NRG Center this week as organizers began setting up for the 36th annual show, which starts today and runs through Sunday.
More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the five-day expo, which will showcase some 800 models from more than 40 manufacturers. The Houston Auto Show, organized by the Houston Automobile Dealers Association, is the largest in Texas, both in attendance and manufacturer representation.
A boost in sales is expected to follow the event.
“That’s what the Auto Show is for,” said Dan McDowell, president of Sugar Land-based automotive data firm InfoNation. “The manufacturers show off their new vehicles and try to excite the general buying public to buy a car. Dealers will springboard off the Auto Show and hope they can capture the general public, get people excited for the year in car sales.”
The industry could use a little turbo-charging. The Auto Show takes place amid a market for new vehicles that has been slowing nationally, as rising sticker prices coupled with higher interest rates have pushed many buyers into the used car market.
The average price of a new vehicle sold in Houston hit a record $39,539 in December, up from $38,320 from the previous year, according to the TexAuto Facts Report from InfoNation.
Nationally, the average new vehicle price hit a record $35,957 in December, a 2 percent increase from the previous year, according to Edmunds.com, an online automobile marketplace.
Interest rates on auto loans averaged about 5.6 percent last year, up from 4.8 percent in 2017.
“Vehicles are becoming so much more expensive,” McDowell said. “Manufacturers are adding so many gizmos and gadgets, bells and whistles, that prices are creeping up.”
Nationally, Automakers sold nearly 17.3 million new vehicles in 2018, an increase of just 0.3 percent from the previous year. Industry analysts expect about 17 million vehicles will be sold this year.
“When we do 17 million new cars, it’s not the best year, but it’s not the worst year by any stretch,” said Houston Auto Show Chairman Tony Gullo, who owns a dozen dealerships in the Conroe area. “As long as we’re in the 17 million range, we’re going to be OK.”
Houston car sales bucked the national average. Houston dealers reported selling 303,417 new vehicles in 2018, up 4 percent from the previous year, according to InfoNation.
McDowell said Houston dealers were buoyed by commercial and fleet sales to corporations, car rental companies and government agencies. These sales comprised nearly 42,000 vehicles, or about 14 percent of all vehicles sold locally last year.
“Houston ended up doing better than the national average,” McDowell said. “It was a little surprising because industry leaders were forecasting declining sales in the second half of the year.”
However, new vehicle sales locally still fell below expectations. InfoNation last year had forecast 306,000 new vehicles would be sold locally in 2018, a 5 percent increase from 2017. The data firm is still working on its 2019 sales forecast, McDowell said.
This year’s Auto Show will feature several new pickup trucks, Houston favorites. Among the new offerings on display will be the Jeep Gladiator, Ram Heavy Duty Longhorn, Chevy Silverado Trail Boss and Nissan Titan Stealth. More pickups are sold in the Houston market than any other place nationally, and so these models, the Jeep Gladiator in particular, will likely draw big crowds.
Although the Houston Auto Show does not allow vehicle sales on site, dealers are hopeful the expo will boost sales over the coming months. Attendees will be able to test drive more than 80 vehicles, including Jeep and Ram trucks. In addition, more than 50 classic cars, from as far back as the 1930s, will be on display at the auto show to draw enthusiasts.
“Manufacturers and car dealers know the best way to get someone to buy a new car is to get them in for a test drive,” show spokeswoman
The 2019 Houston Auto Show at NRG Center is open daily, Wednesday, Jan. 23 through Sunday, Jan. 27. Adult tickets are $
2019 HOUSTON AUTO SHOW
Wednesday, Jan. 23 through Sunday, Jan. 27
Wednesday through Friday: Noon to 9:30 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Children 6-12: $5 when accompanied by adult
$2 discount coupons available online
$2 discount coupon from local McDonald’s restaurants
$3 discount coupons available from some dealerships
Written by The Millennial TV