A 20-year fixture on the near-south side of Fort Wayne has scooted a few paces north to make room for more development, but Straley's Fort Wayne Auto Sales isn't going away.
Carl Straley, who founded the business in 1992, and his son, Brian Straley, who now runs it, say they understand the market, and they do a good business providing used cars that cost between $2,000 and $10,000. They've paved a new lot for their business and set up a new office on the edge of the lot at 1853 Broadway, and they believe coming development is likely to help their business prospects.
The land around their lot is being cleared and leveled for construction. Carl Straley said a local company plans to build a gas station at that busy intersection at Broadway and Taylor, which he said has traffic of around 30,000 vehicles per day.
A new gas station may not be the end of the changes there. Fort Wayne city government spokesman Frank Suarez said the city recently commissioned a study of options for improving the traffic flow at the intersection – including a traffic circle among the possibilities – but no decisions or commitments have been made.
The Straleys took a shot at developing land they own at that intersection a few years ago, but the recession hit not long after they laid their plans. Now they're more interested in finding a buyer or tenant and perhaps building to suit customers.
In the meantime, despite the many twists and turns the used-car market has taken in the recession, they see a continued steady business ahead in used cars.
“We sell cars that people can afford in this neighborhood,” Carl Straley said.
There are new constraints on the used-car market that didn't exist a few years ago. The most fundamental bottleneck in the supply of used cars is that not as many new ones are being built and sold, and people are keeping cars much longer than they used to. Earlier this year, R.L. Polk & Co., an automotive research firm, released research showing that the average age of cars and light trucks being driven in the U.S. rose to 10.8 years in 2011 from 10.4 in 2010.
Brian Straley said his business relies on several approaches to help secure and sell affordable used vehicles. First – much like their customers – they often shop for cars and SUVs with more than 100,000 miles.
Carl Straley said they back those vehicles with powertrain warranties, and banks are more willing to consider loans for cars with six figures on their odometers.
Another key in finding the kind of inventory they like: Brian Stanley said they like to buy new-car trade-ins from dealers. They look for vehicles that are a notch below the later-model used cars that new-car dealers keep on their lots. “Dealers want to keep cars with under 100,000 on their lot,” he said.
Together, finding inventory they want helps them distinguish themselves from other lower-priced dealers in a way that makes a big difference for customers.
“We don't do any buy-here, pay-here stuff,” Carl Straley said.
“I didn't want to work that hard,” he said, grinning. Brian Straley quickly followed up, saying, “I didn't want the headaches,” such as repossessing cars that buyers couldn't afford.