So what fuels Denver’s drive ― to drive?
Car dealers are on track for another record year
Each spring, as the Denver Auto Show rolls into town, auto enthusiasts, automakers, car buyers and car dealers have the opportunity to get together at one time, in one arena. It’s a few days during which the new and (formerly) unimaginable styles are showcased, but it’s during those same few days that the automakers are able to hear the real-time words of the consumers on the real-life vehicles that they purchase.
Last year set a record in new car sales, and 2016 appears to be on the same track. But what is really motivating the Denver-area consumers to buy? Here are some insights from Ford Motor Company:
They want to drive. Despite the talk of metro residents, millennials in particular, choosing to drive less and use ride service or mass transit more, auto sales are up. Nationally, Ford posted the best March and first quarter in 10 years, with March sales up in most categories. Locally, in the Denver Region, the Ford Transit was up 36 percent compared to 2015, SUV sales increased 11 percent for an all-time best March and EV sales were up anywhere from 20 percent to a whopping 167 percent.
They love their SUVs. In February, Craig Patterson, the Marketing Manager for the Ford Expedition, came to Denver specifically to conduct a focus group with SUV owners - knowing that Denver is a unique and relevant consumer group. The results: it’s about function. Denver area drivers are looking to use their SUVs to pack up and get out of town for a while. They want to feel safe in the ever-changing weather conditions, they want innovative seating to accommodate travelers and gear alike, and they want storage space. According to Erich Merkle, Ford U.S. sales analyst, certain demographic groups move on to new stages in their lives, “[The Ford] Explorer provides the space those families need today and tomorrow.”
They want to go green. Interest in green driving options has skyrocketed. EV driving events are being hosted more frequently and charging stations are popping up along the major corridors. People are not only curious, they are making purchases: adding to solid sales in January with a record month for the C-Max Energi, March showed yet another increase in sales -- this time 20 percent -- with both Hybrid electric and Plug-in C-Max models in March. In addition, the Fusion Energi rose 167 percent to the highest single month ever.
They want high tech. A future with autonomous vehicles continues to be a hot topic. But before that happens, technological advances for cars that are currently on the road are happening quickly. From Stop and Go technology that may see an accident coming before it happens, to a more responsive voice command system like SYNC3, to the FordPass that will assist even the hand of a non-Ford driver, cars are becoming more than just transportation. They are becoming information systems, themselves and as the City of Denver presents their ideas for the final submission of the Smart City Competition, all three of the core components cited in the proposal involve what automakers are already presenting in personal vehicles: MODE (Mobility on Demand Enterprise) for the use of apps and interactive kiosks, Transportation Electrification, and Intelligent Vehicles.
As we analyze the Denver region’s buying habits, the ties that bind show a community that is set to move forward in a way that is safe, functional, efficient and green.