The 2015 New York International Auto Show will open next week amid good times in the car business. Sales are strong and growing, credit is fairly easy and gasoline prices are relatively low.
The show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center will feature new vehicles ranging from the $349,500 McLaren 675LT sports car, to a new Cadillac flagship sedan expected to cost upward of $75,000, to bread-and-butter production sedans like the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu and Nissan Maxima.
Visitors to the show will also find a scattering of experimental -- so-called "concept" -- vehicles, including one from Hyundai that might evolve into its first pickup truck for the United States.
The event, which has long been the nation's best-attended car show, opens to the public Friday after a two-day media preview.
Strong auto sales locally and nationally are being led by SUVs.
"Lower fuel prices are definitely causing a swing back to that product," said Manhattan-based senior auto economist George Magliano of the consulting firm IHS Automotive.
Many new SUVs will be unveiled at Javits, including a redesigned Hyundai Tucson, Lexus RX, Mitsubishi Outlander, a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, and, for bigger budgets, the updated and renamed Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV, formerly the ML-Class.
Pegged to the spring car-buying season, the show follows last year's 3.8 percent gain in new vehicle registrations on Long Island, to 218,395 vehicles.
That total, calculated by a consultant to the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, who analyzed registration figures from the Michigan auto data provider R.L. Polk & Co., represented an almost 40 percent improvement from the 157,283 vehicles locally in 2009, the year the recession ended. New registrations had fallen by 18 percent from 191,000 vehicles in 2006, the year before the recession began, to that low.
Nationally last year, sales rose even more than on Long Island from 2013 -- by 6 percent to 16.4 million. New vehicle registrations approximate sales.
IHS forecasters expect a smaller gain nationally this year -- about 3 percent, to sales of 16.9 million vehicles. IHS says pent-up demand from sales postponed during the recession has now largely been satisfied.
"The easy cyclical gains are over," said Magliano, the IHS economist. "We fell really hard in the recession and have come out really strong. Now we're hitting a point where we still expect higher and higher volumes, but the gains are going to be smaller." IHS doesn't have a separate forecast for Long Island.
The highest-ever U.S. vehicle sales total was 17.4 million, in 2000. IHS thinks that level will be exceeded with a 17.7 million total in 2017.
Industry experts attribute the gains nationally and on Long Island to an improving jobs picture, easier credit at low interest rates and, since June, a decline in fuel prices to 2009 levels. The reason for inexpensive gasoline: The price of U.S. crude oil fell from a high of $107.95 a barrel on June 20 to $50.16 in late-morning trading Friday.
On Long Island, the average price per gallon of regular gasoline fell from a recent high of $4.036 a gallon last July 2 to a low of $2.348 on Feb. 2, according to the motorist group AAA. The average was $2.591 on Friday morning, $1.198 lower than a year earlier.
Heating oil this winter was about $1 a gallon less than last winter. IHS estimates the average family is saving from $750 to $1,000 a year because of lower fuel prices. Those are savings that can be spent on cars or other items.
But there's concern among some economists that auto sales could decelerate because of stagnant wages, which increased an average of only 2 percent in the past 12 months, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
"We have wage gains accelerating a little in our forecasts, but we haven't seen it yet," Magliano said.
Although predictions call for increased sales this year, data for 2015 are stronger for the nation than for Long Island.
Nationally, sales in January and February rose by a total of 9.2 percent from 2014.
On Long Island, registrations dropped by 2.6 percent in January from the same month last year. There are no local results available yet for February.
But the regional dealer association estimates a 2.9 percent gain for a nine-county New York metropolitan area when February numbers become available.
Auto show organizers say about 1,000 new cars and trucks will be on display in 950,000 square feet at the Javits Center and that, once again, about 1 million visitors are expected.
The organizers say media registration so far is running about 5 percent ahead of last year's, when a total of 4,973 media members covered the show, including journalists and advertising sales people. That represented a 7 percent increase compared with the 2013 total.
2015 New York International Auto Show
Open to the public: Friday, April 3, through Sunday, April 12
Location: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 W. 34th St., Manhattan
Monday through Saturday: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sundays: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Tickets: $16, age 13 and older; $7, children 12 and under.
Available at the door or online: www.autoshowNY.com.
On display: About 1,000 new vehicles.
-- Source: autoshowny.com