Kytwon Norman of Youngstown, Ohio, assembles the door of a Chevy Cruze at the Lordstown GM plant in this file photo. The plant is slated for probable closure, affecting 1,600 workers. (Jason Miller/MCT)

Why optimism has fled the auto industry

Auto dealers today are no longer optimistic about market conditions, a new survey has found.

The Q4 2018 Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index takes measure of how U.S. auto dealers, both franchised and independent, are feeling about the auto business and vehicle sales.

The survey was taken between Oct. 24 and Nov. 6, 2018, with questions focused on current market conditions and prospects for the coming three months. The survey was conducted with 1,124 dealer respondents, Cox said.

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“In the latest index, one thing is very clear: Optimism for the market is gone. In fact, expectations for the next quarter moved into negative territory for the first time in the survey’s history,” a press release accompanying the survey said Monday.

Dealers are concerned about “Slowing customer traffic, growing pressure to reduce prices, and declining profitability aligned with a view of the market that retreated from strong to weak in the aggregate index,” said Cox Automotive Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke.

“Dealers remain worried about the negative impact of proposed tariffs leading to higher prices, but they are also now seeing a less robust used-vehicle market, which is also notably weaker than last year,” Smoke said.

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Experts say with the auto industry is undergoing a sea change, wth ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles, as well as on-demand driving services, changing the way people commute.

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Late last month, General Motors announced that it would close or slate for probable closure five plants in the U.S. and Canada. Its Lordstown, Ohio plant, with 1,600 workers, does not have a future vehicle scheduled for production beyond the Chevrolet Cruze.

Cox Automotive is part of Cox Enterprises, which also owns Cox Media Group, of which the Dayton Daily News is a part.

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