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Sales down, service up: Mechanics in demand to keep old cars running

While sales of new vehicles have plummeted, the service side of the automotive industry is holding steady as people opt to keep their old cars and trucks running.

“So far, it’s extremely busy,” said Earl Hannon, service department director at Anderson Chevrolet in Waynesville. “We’re running about 50 cars a day.”

Scott Rodes, owner of a GM dealership in Sylva, said his service department has seen increased business because people are fixing their old cars rather than trading them in.

At Walker Service in Waynesville, owner Clayton Walker is thankful that business has remained steady and on point with this time last year. He’s noticed some effects from the economy, though — customers are opting for minor repairs or spacing out repairs rather than paying for a lot of work at once.

“People are real tight with their money right now,” Walker said. “They’re real hesitant about big repairs. The main thing for them is just keeping the car safe.”

Joe Taylor, owner of Taylor automotive in Waynesville, says customers are being vigilant about upkeep of their current vehicle.

“People are doing maintenance,” he said.

A last resort

Some continue to pay for repairs simply because they never have enough cash upfront to purchase a new vehicle. They may be living paycheck to paycheck, or are unable to get a loan due to the credit crunch. Or, once they get a little money saved, it has to go toward yet another repair.

“Every time you get money saved up, something else happens,” lamented Mark Michaux, 40, of Waynesville. Michaux finally had to take his 1995 Ford Aerostar van in for repairs after he couldn’t fix it himself. He and his fiancé share the vehicle.

The van is the only means of transportation Michaux’s fiancé has to get to her job at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. The couple has no choice but to keep the vehicle running.

“She’s got to have a way to get back and forth to work,” Michaux said. “It’s not a matter of cost-effectiveness, it’s a matter of logistics.”

Even if Michaux wanted to trade the vehicle in, he points out that he’d still have to invest in repairs.

“It’s got to be running to trade,” he said.

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