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Soft economy not slowing auto auction biz

                Business analysts are hanging on every bit of news from the national housing market. Is the housing crisis over? Is the mortgage crisis over? Each week a new national headline of doom and gloom regarding homes sales appears.

                We have been told by the pundits, the worst is over, the economy is fine and is rebounding. Well, I hope they are right, but recent new auto sales numbers from some large automakers don't paint such a pretty picture. Both Ford Motor Company and Toyota reported significant September sales declines.

                The eternal optimist that I am, I began to think, where is the silver lining in this recent car sales "news." If new car sales are down, are people buying cars? If Southeastern Auto Auction on Dean Forest Road in Savannah is any indicator, you better believe they are. In this case, not new, but used car sales are booming.

                Owned by Bulloch County residents Tommy Childs, Wayne DeLoach, and Danny Williams, Southeastern Auto Auction is posting record sales numbers each month.

                "In essence we serve as a broker for used automobiles," DeLoach said. "Car dealers bring us their used cars and we put them through the auction process for them."

                DeLoach said they have not seen any slow down in the used car business.

                "We have had double digit growth each month from that same month the year prior," he said. "Part of that I can attribute to the expansion of our customer base. In other words, we have been able to get more dealers to bring their used cars to us for auction."

                DeLoach said that 90 percent of the vehicles auctioned are purchased by dealers. The remaining ten percent are purchased by the public.

                "When you get a downturn in the economy, the interest in used cars increases," he said. "People decide that they just don't want to spend as much, and they look to a used car. The demand is there right now."

                The following numbers may help you put DeLoach and his partners' operation into perspective.  Located on 15 acres, the auction employs 64 people. This year, they expect to auction off more than 12,000 units (automobiles and trucks), and their gross auction receipts are predicted to increase by 18 percent over last year alone.

                Not bad, in an industry that has many analysts pondering the future. DeLoach was philosophical about the auto auction's increasing success.

                "Every car driven off of the showroom floor becomes a used car. A new car sale becomes a used car sale sooner or later. We will ride this wave as long as we can."

                Until next week, I bid you au revoir

                Got a scoop for Jan? Call her at (912) 489-9463 or e-mail her at jmoore@statesboroherald.net

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