MOUNT VERNON — Retail sales declined in September by the largest amount this year as car sales plummeted following the end of the government’s Cash for Clunkers program.
A dip of about 2.4 percent was expected by the Department of Commerce, so the drop wasn’t as bad as predicted. But the 1.5 percent is still one of the largest declines in recent history.
Outside of autos, sales were better than expected.
Figures for September sales in Knox County were not available.
Bob Devlin of John DeCosky Chevrolet reported an expected sales dip in September.
“The immediate month [September] after the Clunkers program, sales were pretty soft,” he said. “But it seems to be picking up a little bit. We did pretty well with the Clunkers program. It went over pretty well.”
John Walsh, owner of Fredericktown Chevrolet reported a similar experience.
“Cash for Clunkers was great for us,” he said. “We sold a lot of cars and we got paid all of our money. It was kind of stressful because it was complicated for us and it was difficult to get some of our questions answered from the government. So we didn’t know if we were doing things right or wrong. We basically applied for all of them that we sold. And we had about 30 before we got paid on our first one. So we had 30 deals hanging out there before we knew if we did them right.”
Walsh said his situation was a bit better than a lot of other dealers.
“A lot of dealerships ran very low on inventory [after Cash for Clunkers],” he explained. “We were in pretty good shape inventory-wise. We had maybe 50 cars in stock.
“I think that hurt a lot of other dealers; sales were down because inventory was down. I think we did better than most after the program because we had a good inventory. It did fall off after Clunkers. But when you compare this September to September last year, we did fine.”