Everybody loves a new car, so there will be a lot of happy tire-kickers at the Fairgrounds this weekend.
Happy buyers, too, if the dealers have anything to say about it: Spokane’s new car show is a selling show and virtually every dealer in town is out to make you a deal you can’t refuse on the car, truck or SUV you’ve been dreaming about.
“The dealers see this as an opportunity to show all their best new models under one roof,” said Chris Camp, of Camp Automotive and president of the Spokane New Car Dealers Association. “And they want to make as many buyers happy as they can while they’re out here.”
Along with the other Corvette enthusiasts, Camp had hoped that the new generation ‘Vette would be here in time for the show. No luck. Instead, Chevy dealers have a new Malibu to show off, plus an all-new Venture minivan.
Cadillac will show its new, nifty-handling German-built Catera and Acura has its attractive little luxury-oriented CL coupes to show. Hyundai has is impressive new sport-coupe Tiburon and Mercury its Explorer-based Mountaineer SUV.
Ford introduces its Suburban-figher, the Expedition, and Mitsubishi has a new Montero Sport, which is slightly smaller - and less expensive - than the full-size Montero. Among sport-utes, Honda’s diminutive CR-V is likely to make lots of noise, offering tons of value at a realistic price.
And that’s a trend Chris Camp expects will continue: Manufacturers, he said, are getting back to basics - building quality automobiles at a price people can afford.
“Prices have through the roof over the past years and limited the market as to what people can afford,” he said. Now the trend is to pack more value into each model without significant cost increases.
Camp and his fellow General Motors dealers are lauding the introduction of new “value-priced” models designed to take the sting out of buying a well-equipped new car.
“It started with Saturn and other manufacturers are following suit,” Camp said. “Manufacturers packaging several popular options that people want - air conditioning, cruise control, CD players, things like that into a value-priced model for a price that’s lower than if they had bought the options separately.”
As the industry approaches the new century, it continues to find ways to make the buying experience more rewarding, Camp said.
“As a general rule, people don’t like the experience of buying a car; manufacturers have done many surveys as to how they can make that easier.”
In the past decade, he said, “more information has become available to consumers; consumers have done a better job of educating themselves before starting the buying process.”
This growing level of consumer awareness has turned the heads of manufacturers, who now insist that dealers pay close attention to the needs of the public.
“If you are going to be successful as a dealer,” Camp said, “everything is predicated on customer satisfaction. There’s a lot of pressure on dealers to keep the customer satisfaction index high. If it’s not good, the manufacturer will take measures to ensure that they are improved.”
That creates a winning environment for buyers, he said.
Bottom line, however, it’s new models that attract buyers.
“New products spur excitement. People get excited about change: the Dodge pickup was a good example.
“We’ve found that to be the case with our Tahoe. Many customers will cross franchise lines to buy a new and exciting product. For instance, Ford has stirred the market with the introduction of its new Expedition.”
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW ‘97 Feb. 14-16, 1997 Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds East Broadway & North Havana Admission: 4$/Under 15 Free Hours Friday, Feb. 14 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16 10 a.m.-6 p.m.