Sales have taken a hit, but car dealers say credit crunch is just

Honda Sales Manager Lynn Robison of Fuoco Motor Co.

The rules changed in the car lending arena last week.

Credit unions raised the minimum standard credit score required to get auto-loan financing from around 600 to 640, officials at Grand Junction automobile dealers said. Opinions vary on the latest change, but some dealers said they are concerned it could hurt car sales.

“It shouldn’t affect us too much,” said Lynn Robison, sales manager for Fuoco Motor Co. “Honda still has parameters in that bracket. They’re looking at scores over 700 for an A rating. The people that are at 600 to 680 or 690, we can still get them approved.”

The car loan situation in Grand Junction is not as dire as it may seem nationally, he and other local car salespeople said. Robison said his sales for September were down to 39, compared to 53 in September 2007. However, the business had its best-selling month in 35 years in June, when gas prices were above $4 per gallon. During that month, Fuoco sold 73 units.

“I think lenders are being a little more cautious on who gets approved on loans. ... They are looking at people a lot closer now than they did before,” said Randy Henni, used-import manager for Western Slope Ford Lincoln Mercury Toyota in Grand Junction. “People that deserve a loan are still getting a loan.”

“We have 11 different vehicles now, Toyotas, that have zero-percent interest. It’s super strong on people who deserve it. Sales are down a little bit. When it comes to the rest of the country, we’re not even remotely close to what they’re saying. Our economy’s a little bit different. We’re in a bubble. ”

New car sales are down about 4.5 percent at Western Slope Ford Lincoln Mercury Toyota, owner Mike Ferris said.

“We are down slightly with Ford over the last year, but not very much,” Ferris said. “Saleswise, Ford was our No. 1 selling brand last month and continues to be strong.”

The credit situation is unchanged for people with strong credit, Ferris said.

“We still have people who have had some problems in their past and so on,” he said. “It is more challenging, but it still can be done if the circumstances are right, with the right amount of down payment and if they have a good job. It can still be done, but it just takes some work.”


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