Local residents registered more vehicles in 2012 than in each of the past two years, and local car dealers said they continued to sell more vehicles.
First-time vehicle registrations, which include any new or used vehicles registered by an owner for the first time, increased to 6,500 in 2012. The total was nearly 3 percent more than in 2011 and the highest since 2009, according to statistics from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Local car dealerships also had an increase in sales last year, as concerns about the economy have faded, dealership managers said.
But one car dealer said he was still struggling to get potential car buyers approved for a loan because lenders now have more restrictions.
High-end car sales, including Infiniti and BMW, at Dreyer and Reinbold in Greenwood were the highest since 2007, even with the dealership completing a showroom remodel in 2012, new car manager Chad Spidle said.
New Infiniti sales were up 22 percent, and BMW sales were up 8 percent, he said.
Spidle regularly heard concerns about purchasing a new car during the economic downturn. But in 2012, those worries have dropped out of conversation, he said.
“It was probably in 2007, 2008 that you heard over and over again and that people wanted to wait. We saw a little shift to pre-owned cars,” he said.
“It’s been a long time since I heard anybody have fears or mention fears with the economy. It used to be a daily thing. I think people are comfortable to some extent with the way things are. I think they’ve seen a slow growth.”
The economy also has faded out of the decision-making process with most people visiting Fletcher Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Franklin, sales manager J.J. Johnson said.
“2011 was a good year, 2012 was an awesome year. Night and day difference from 2009 and 2010, big sales growths in all different kinds of vehicles,” Johnson said.
Sales were up 22 percent for new vehicles, with used cars also increasing from 2011 as consumer confidence returned.
“It’s all about the confidence, and I think it’s starting to come back in the economy. Things are not doom and gloom. Things are good,” Johnson said.
Sales also increased at Bradley Chevrolet in Franklin, although manager Kenny Young said he didn’t have exact numbers ready yet.
“I think it’s probably about as normal as you’re going to see for quite a while,” he said.
Buyers have returned to General Motors after the company went through bankruptcy and restructuring in 2009, Young said.
“Attitudes were generally pretty good. They were probably better toward the General Motors product than they have been in the past,” Young said.
At Milam’s Used Cars in Bargersville, sales were also up in 2012, but buyers faced struggles with tighter loan requirements from lenders, prompting the dealership to offer financing, owner Charlie Milam said.
“It’s really a pain to get somebody financed,” he said.
Milam started offering financing through the dealership since some of the customers he met looking for a used vehicle didn’t have good enough credit to get a loan.
“It’s really hard to get anybody financed unless they’ve got A-1 credit, that’s actually why we started,” he said.