Craig Schreiber has a good vantage point to gauge the business of selling cars in New York State. The co-owner of Northtown Automotive Cos. was recently elected chairman of the New York State Automobile Dealers Association. Schreiber was elected to the trade organization’s board of directors in 2005 and has progressed through a number of roles with the group. The NYSADA, which dates to 1923, says total sales of all its member dealerships generated 2011 sales of $34.1 billion.
Northtown is one of the largest auto dealer groups in Buffalo Niagara, with 17 different franchises. Among its recent additions were a new home for its Lexus dealership and the region’s lone Fiat dealership. Schreiber, 49, says auto sales appear to be on a good path as the new year gets under way:
Q: What is the role of the New York State Automobile Dealers Association?
A: I oversee a group of about 1,000 franchised new-car dealers located throughout the entire state. The main thing that most new-car dealers look for us is to be their voice with elected officials. It’s run by a president, Bob Vancavage. … We provide a variety of services, and we set our legislative program for the year and make sure the association is on solid footing for my successor.
Q: What is the group’s top legislative priority this year?
A: The legislative priority is the amendment to the franchise bill that we’ve been working on for several months now. It involves how the [auto] manufacturers relate to dealers on a number of levels, such as warranties. … We’re looking to strengthen the law as it currently exists in New York State.
Q: What are its chances of passage?
A: We’ve been working with the manufacturers to draft language into a bill that both [franchised dealer and manufacturer] groups can support.
Q: How does the market look for new-vehicle sales this year?
A: I think it’s looking really good. We started seeing it in the last two months of 2012. Prognosticators are talking about a return to light vehicle sales in the range of 15.5 million [from about 14.5 million last year].
Q: What is helping to drive those positive forecasts?
A: The age of the cars on the road, what they refer to as the scrappage rate. [Experts estimate the average age of cars on the road at 11 years old.] Lots of people who postponed purchases are now ready to buy.
Q: How does the Buffalo Niagara new-car market stand out compared to other parts of the state or the country?
A: It’s interesting. We don’t see the peaks and valleys that they do in other places. … We’ve learned how to operate in that environment. In other markets, they’re more prone to get the peaks and valleys.
Q: Does the Buffalo Auto Show in February have a big impact on stimulating car buying?
A: Definitely. Almost right away we see it in February, from people who see what you have at the show and want to make a purchase. But we’re always impressed with the buyers it brings in throughout the year, months after the show. The manufacturers keep statistics on success rates with auto shows. … Back when I was working the floor at the auto show, I would hand out hundreds of cards in the course of the week. I was amazed at people who would come in [to the dealership] months later with one of my cards and say, “I met you at the auto show.”