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Auto Business Evolves So It Can Thrive

By Brian Hallenbeck

Published October 22. 2008 4:00AM   Updated September 11. 2009 10:40AM

Dealers such as Tom McAvoy, who owns Town Hill Auto on Bank Street in New London, rely on the stream of trade-ins that new car dealers make available to used car dealers.

"Nobody's trading in cars. They're hanging on to them," McAvoy says. "I've been here since 1991, and I've seen ups and downs, but nothing like this."

People are hanging on to leased cars, too, which are a major source of used vehicles.

Don't worry about Town Hill, though. McAvoy's paying the bills.

"All things considered, we're doing pretty well," he says. "What sets us apart is we have a big service base. In the last 10 years, we've built up that end of the business."

Pete Roberts, Town Hill's service manager, says people are deferring maintenance until they have big repairs to make, but they're making them.

"We're seeing more tow-ins for service," McAvoy adds.

Changes wrought by technology are also helping sustain car dealers.

"A big percentage of our business is finding cars for people" via the Internet, says Fred Stewart, a Town Hill salesman. As a registered online dealer, Town Hill has access to an inventory of used cars across the country.

On this day, Town Hill has 20 cars on its lot.

Amid the cinched belts, McAvoy feeds his five employees and one customer on a pot of beef stew. Sticker price? Sixteen bucks.

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