Residential homebuilding leads to rise in truck sales |

Residential homebuilding leads to rise in truck sales

Rob Sabo

The return of residential homebuilding and rise in construction employment has provided a windfall for used car lots in the Truckee Meadows that focus on selling pre-owned pickup trucks.

Craig Conrad, owner of Street Dreams Auto Sales on Kietzke Lane for the past eight years, says year-over-year sales have doubled. However, much of the rise in sales can be attributed to the completion of the Moana Lane widening project — potential buyers avoided businesses around the Moana corridor for months due to limited access, Conrad notes.

Street Dreams, which stocks about 80 to 90 percent of its inventory in pickups or SUVs, is moving about 50 trucks per month, Conrad says, and business looks to continue its strong trend over the remainder of the year.

Conrad buys vehicles each week at large auctions in Las Vegas and Ontario, Calif. Despite having a lot full of pickup trucks, he’ll always buy another if the price is right.

“A nice truck, regardless of how many I have got, still is a nice truck,” he says.

Dario Rocha, sales manager at High Sierra Auto Sales on Mill Street, agrees that it’s often easier to move light-duty trucks and sport utility vehicles than other models. Sales at High Sierra trended up the first four months of 2013 before tapering off slightly, Rocha says.

Many buyers this year at High Sierra Auto Sales have been construction workers buying trucks to go back to work as the residential homebuilding market finds its legs.

“People are coming around buying some gas savers, but the bigger market is going for SUVs and trucks,” Rocha says. “I have noticed at lot more construction workers and people who do labor jobs that need a pickup truck.”

Northern Nevada has long been truck country — roughly 50 to 55 percent of the vehicles on Silver State roadways are four-by-fours, heavy-duty construction trucks or all-wheel drive models, says Wayne Frediani, executive director of the Nevada Franchised Auto Dealers Association.

Used vehicles — especially certified pre-owned models that have limited warranties — also are commanding higher prices today than in the past several years, Frediani notes. New car sales ground to a halt during the onset of the economic slowdown, which created a premium for lightly-driven trade-ins and newer vehicles coming off expired leases.

Stocking lots with quality used vehicles also has gotten more expensive — and harder for owners of used car lots. Bidding at auctions has gotten fierce and quality vehicles often are sold several thousands of dollars higher than what buyers expect to pay.

“Resale values are so strong it’s scary,” Conrad says. “They have improved drastically over the last five years.”

For Bob Strite, owner of Thunderbolt Auto Sales in Midtown Reno, car sales have fallen off in 2013 despite increased foot traffic around his lot at 755 S. Virginia St. Oddly, Strite says, sales held up pretty steady in 2008-2010 despite crumbling regional economy.

Strite stocks mostly small four-cylinder gas-saving vehicles and also does brisk business selling scooters to Midtown hipsters. He finds most of his vehicles at Brasher’s Reno Auto Auction held each week in Stead. He sells more cars in the $1,500 to $3,000 range than any other type of vehicle.

“The lower-priced ones always sell faster than high-dollar ones,” Strite says. “I’ll sell three $2,000 cars before I sell one $10,000 one.”

The rise in regional auto sales follows national trends, notes Frediani of the Nevada Franchised Auto Dealers Association. Year-over-year sales of new vehicles are up 19 percent in Clark County and 12 to 13 percent in Washoe County, he says, mostly on the strength of higher factory incentives designed to lure buyers into new vehicles rather than used ones.

“New car sales across the country are driving the economy,” Frediani says. “The car industry is doing very well, and though we are doing OK we still are struggling in Nevada because of our high unemployment — unemployed people can’t buy motor vehicles. Once we get people back to work, the car business will have three or four really banner years in Nevada.”


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