US consumers’ optimism and their revived appetite for new cars were on display at the New York Auto Show.
Coming off the best month for the US car market in nearly five years, the motor industry has descended on New York, where about 30 models are scheduled to be revealed.
This represents an increase on recent years, when the industry unveiled most of its new products in Detroit or Los Angeles.
March sales figures were on track to reach annual levels above 14 million, a significant turnaround for an industry that faced collapse only a few years ago.
“The economy is getting better, just objectively. The unemployment rate is down and the stock market is up,” said Reid Bigland, head of US sales at Chrysler.
The company led US car makers with a 34 per cent year-on-year gain in March. “People are definitely feeling better about their prospects,” Bigland added.
Although petrol prices have climbed above $4 per gallon in some parts of the country, executives said consumers were reacting differently from some previous sharp rises in price.
“I won’t say people are used to it, but $4 a gallon gas is not as much as a shock,” said Mark Fields, head of Ford’s Americas business, as Financial Times stated.
He attributed Ford’s 5 per cent sales rise last month in part to demand for fuel-efficient cars and trucks.
As people sit at their kitchen tables and do the math for a new car, “it’s something that they think about”, Fields said of petrol costs.