As the Big Three automakers await word from Congress on an estimated $25 billion bailout plan, some car dealerships along Noland Road’s Miracle Mile have adjusted to the current economic downfall by shifting car buyers’ attention to quality, pre-owned vehicles.

As the Big Three automakers await word from Congress on an estimated $25 billion bailout plan, some car dealerships along Noland Road’s Miracle Mile have adjusted to the current economic downfall by shifting car buyers’ attention to quality, pre-owned vehicles.

Marty Dahmer, general manager of Cable-Dahmer Chevrolet, 1834 S. Noland Road, said the dealership has in recent months seen a spike in used car sales due to the economic crisis stagnating new car sales.

“It’s affected our new car business more than anything,” Dahmer said of the economy. “The used car department is doing good, the service department, body shop and parts are all strong. We’ve just seen a decrease in new car traffic.”

Because of the decline in new car sales, Dahmer said the dealership has intentionally targeted previous customers, trying to get them interested in newer models, while at the same time placing a great deal of emphasis on the used car market.

“We are fortunate to have been in business for a very long time and we have a pretty good customer base,” Dahmer said. “They are loyal. They have done business with us for years and they are still coming into the dealership and buying cars. We’re blessed for that.”

Cable-Dahmer’s shift in focus is timely. According to the National Automobile Dealer Association, 590 new-car dealerships have closed this year and the organization expects the number to reach 700 by year’s end. Last year, 430 dealers closed. Dealers that sell GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicles are affected the most, the NADA states, because they have been losing market share to Toyota, Honda and other foreign manufacturers for years.

Still, according to another dealership along the Miracle Mile, new car sales growth could be worse.

“The reality of it is that it is not as bad locally as it is being made out to be,” said Cory Thompson, general manager at Metro Ford, 2860 S. Noland Road. “I think it is consumer confidence as much as it is anything. People don’t know if they are going to have a job next week or next month.”

Thompson said despite the uncertain times for many, others are still interested in the newer model vehicles on Metro’s lot.

“Our lenders here locally are still lending and putting loans together and getting people in cars,” Thompson said, adding Metro Ford has seen a rise in recent months of car purchases for less than $15,000. “People are not buying more than what they need. They are just spending the bare minimum for a good, decent car. They are buying the less expensive pre-owned car.”

Dahmer said despite slower than expected new vehicle sales, the dealership has not had to relieve sales staff of their duties.

“Our sales are down, but not drastically like a lot of places around the country,” Dahmer said. “That goes back to our customer base.”

Joyce Carter of Kansas City said last week she brought her college-age grandson, Joe Carter, to Cable-Dahmer to “check out” what the dealership had to offer in terms of used vehicles. Carter said she had saved money to buy her grandson a used pickup outright, but he wanted a newer model, complete with monthly payments, insurance protection and the accompanying interest rate.

The Carters left the dealership without a car, but Joyce Carter said they would be back once she got more information on the used car prices she saw on a few extended cabs she liked.

Dahmer said customers like Joyce Carter may become the lifeline of the dealership in the foreseeable future

“We are going to maintain our new car business and try to concentrate on the used car market,” Dahmer said.