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Truck sales remain strong

Rob Sabo

Pickup trucks long reigned supreme as the vehicle of choice throughout rural Nevada and remain so, despite high fuel prices.

From hauling hay to bouncing down unpaved roads to mining properties, full-size pickups are an indispensable tool to rural and ranching lifestyles, and sales of pickup trucks are holding steady in towns such as Winnemucca, Fallon, Fernley and Elko.

“We are just about sold out of trucks,” says Lee Bosch, owner of Bosch Motors in Winnemucca. “Little cars don’t pull trailers. They don’t do any work. Our truck business is still fairly brisk. It’s not like what it was a couple of years ago, but it’s still fair to middlin’.”

Bosch says sales of full-size SUVs “family movers” such as Trailblazers, Envoys, Suburbans and Yukons have dropped nearly 70 percent despite zero-percent interest rate offerings from manufacturers. On the

flip side, Bosch has seen a 50 percent increase in sales of smaller vehicles, such as the Chevy Malibu.

Dennis White, general sales manager of Dale White Motors in Elko, says pickup trucks are a way of life

and more for residents of rural Nevada.

“People are coming to grips with reality and the price of fuel,” he says. “They need their equipment and

that is what it is out here to get the job done.”

Cars sales also are up at Dale White Motors, located in the heart of the booming mining industry.

Trucks typically account for about 70 percent of the dealership’s volume, but of the 45 vehicles sold during the first three weeks of July, half were cars. And despite the national economic downturn, White says the dealership’s sales numbers are still up 16 percent over last year.

“It could be better, that is for sure, but we are doing fine,” he says.

The market for used trucks, however, seems to have softened. Ed Camacho, owner of Camacho Auto Sales in Fallon, says people are purchasing used full-size trucks on a need-only basis.

“Some people would buy on the way they looked, like lift kits and stuff like that, but now if they don’t need a full-size they don’t buy,” he says.

Camacho typically has between 10 to 15 full-size pickups on his lot, but he says most shoppers aren’t even kicking the tires on V-8 vehicles. “People are just walking around looking for something more economical,” he says. “I did sell one last Monday. A gal called and said, ‘I know it is a gas-guzzler, but it is what I need.’ It is strictly need, or it wouldn’t have sold.”

Although he says sales of used SUVs and vehicles with V-8 engines have slowed to a crawl, Camacho has seen a spike in sales of smaller vehicles. He says several ranchers have bought a 4- or 6-cylinder car for use as a runabout vehicle.

Sales of used trucks have softened in Yerington as well. Jeff Haugen of Wild West Motors says the small dealership now only purchases full-size vehicles at auction if they are pre-sold.

“Six months ago I would go to auction and buy five diesel trucks, but now I won’t buy any unless someone wants one,” he says. “I have four new half-tons I haven’t been able to sell.”

And dealers agree that because of the credit crunch, financial institutions are much more cautious about lending.

“Nobody has any money to lend, so they are being real hard on credit,” Bosch says. “A couple years ago a guy with a 600 credit score could walk in and buy a vehicle. That ain’t happening anymore. It takes a 650 or better credit score to qualify for a new vehicle.”

And White says more lenders are looking for consumers to have a vested interest in owning their vehicles by ponying up a decent chunk of cash upfront. “The days of zero down pretty much are going away, at least for time being,” he says. “The lending policies in place today might not hold true tomorrow.”

Adds Camacho: “Lenders are tightening up. They are looking for reasons to tell you no.”