Local car dealerships expect sales increase from Middle East violence

Photo provided by staff
Friday, August 30, 2013 - 8:00am

Gas prices rose by their largest single day amount in six weeks, and they are expected to keep rising. That is bad news for drivers, but good news for local car dealerships.

Syria is in the middle of a civil war, and fighting has gotten worse recently. The government was accused of using chemical weapons on its own citizens, sparking fears that the United States or another country will attack it.

The price of unleaded gasoline rose by 1.8 cents per gallon Thursday, according to AAA. Economists expect the price of gas to rise because of the unrest Syria's war is causing throughout the Middle East.

"You see rumblings around the world and they're talking about fuel prices going up. And it does affect our business, in a positive way," said Bill Rinehart, a sales consultant at Southpoint Volkswagen.

Fear about high gas prices brings people to car dealerships looking for hybrids and clean diesel cars. But since gas prices can be so volatile, it is not an immediate reaction.

"And you notice that the rise is continuous, not just a little small bump, it starts to become a forefront (issue)," said David Fremin, a sales consultant at Price LeBlanc Lexus, "and everybody's looking to make a change then."

Cars with hybrid and diesel engines can get three times the gas mileage of a car with a traditional engine. Filling up once a month can make a big difference for a family on a budget. But even families who can afford to pay more are getting rid of their gas-guzzlers.

"It doesn't really matter whether it's the luxury side or the non-luxury side," Fremin said.

But drivers in South Louisiana show less interest in fuel-efficient cars than people in other parts of the country, because high gas prices make a lot of us richer.

"So many of our clients are tied to the petrochemical business, so they're not really looking to save fuel. They're hoping that fuel prices go up."

Other drivers choose trucks because they like the freedom of burning gas.

"I'm sure that's going to continue, to a certain extent," Rinehart said. "But if you can have power, and you can have great performance, and you can have great fuel mileage together, that's the way to go."

Even those drivers who refuse to get a hybrid or diesel-powered car will get a more fuel-efficient vehicle because of pressure from Washington.

"Standards are getting higher and higher from the government, so yeah, gas mileage is improving," Fremin noted.

Rinehart owns a diesel-powered car that he bought in 1997. He said it has more than 300,000 miles on it, and claims he can get nearly 800 miles per tank.

"I took a trip recently, and I filled up about Louisville, KY, from here," he stated.

While gas prices rose today, they are still cheaper than they were a month ago, and also cheaper than they were on this date in 2012. 


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