Biz Buzz: Local auto dealers report sales rebound

Sales of new cars are finally on the rebound at several dealerships in San Luis Obispo County.

The results echo a report recently released by the California New Car Dealers Association, which analyzed new-vehicle registrations to find that California’s new-vehicle sales are up nearly 20 percent in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009.

Chris Baughman, sales manager at Sunset Honda in San Luis Obispo, said he’s “definitely seen an increase in both floor traffic and attitudes in general. It’s not so hum glum.”

Sunset Honda’s first quarter 2010 sales were up 17.74 percent from the same period in 2009 — when the dealership experienced an approximately 33 percent sales drop compared to the first quarter of 2008.

Shawn Koehler, general manager of Perry Ford Lincoln Mercury in San Luis Obispo, said first-quarter sales were up

19.3 percent for 2010. The dealership experienced an overall sales drop of more than 50 percent from 2007 to 2008, with numbers remaining steady in 2009.

Both Koehler and Mark Borjon, co-owner of Golden Hills Auto Center in Paso Robles, credited the sales increases to “pent-up demand.” A car is a “wear-out item,” Borjon said, and needs to be replaced.

Sales at the Golden Hills Auto Center were up around 27 percent for the first quarter of 2010, said Borjon. Sales of Buicks have stepped up to make up for the loss of the Pontiac line at the dealership, which experienced an overall sales drop of around 50 percent from 2007 to 2009.

Borjon is confident that the customers will return, he said. “The American people are too strong to be kept down.”

— Julia Hickey

Rotary gives award for ethics, standards

The Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo recently presented Mark Montanez, corporate manager of training and development with United Staffing Associates, with the 2010 Suggs Award for demonstrating the highest level of ethical standards and professionalism.

Since joining USA in 2005, Montanez has provided training and support to the internal staff of the company in San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria.

USA Human Resources Director Betsey Nash said that Montanez recently doubled his workload in response to the company’s cuts in overhead.

Montanez is a former board member of the Human Resources Association of the Central Coast and formerly worked for 14 years in a nonprofit group.

— Julia Hickey

Fair to expand its wine reach

The Central Coast Wine competition at the California Mid-State Fair has plans to expand its geographic boundaries and collaborate with other county fairs.

Growing areas eligible to compete will include Ventura County and all of the Central Coast American Viticultural Area, which spans from Santa Barbara County to south of San Francisco Bay.

Entries had been limited to wine produced entirely from grapes grown in Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

The Mid-State Fair will also work with county fairs in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Monterey counties to host the competition so that wineries can gain more market exposure by entering four competitions instead of just one, according to a recent fair announcement.

— Julia Hickey