Cathedral City's boom in car sales, a reflection of rising economy?

POSTED: 01:45 AM PDT Apr 05, 2013    UPDATED: 03:06 PM PDT Apr 05, 2013 
CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. -

Krista Rainey and Thomas Cook, of Joshua Tree, were out at the Cathedral City Auto Center on Thursday ready to pick up their new Nissan Altima after trading in their old Nissan Sentra last week.

"We've kind of been saving up. It was a spur of the moment thing and we just went and did it," said Cook.

It was an impulse buy, one of many, that helped the auto mall with 16 different franchises break records. It sold more vehicles in the month of March than ever before, since breaking ground in 1988.

"For the first time in history. The average car is 11 years old and hence bent up the demand," said Andy Jessup Jr., the general manager of Jessup Auto Plaza.

Jessup Jr., the president of the Cathedral City Auto Dealers Association, says nearly 1,300 people drove off in a new or used vehicle last month. City officials say the record-breaking sales could be a sign of what's to come for the local economy.

"It really shows that the economy's vitality is beginning to come back. Our auto dealers are a huge indicator. Their success is our success," said Cathedral City Mayor Kathy DeRosa.

While the city still faces some rocky budget issues, DeRosa says the boom in car sales gives an extra boost to the city's fund, especially after its 1 percent increase in sales tax took effect last year.

Cathedral City’s sales tax stands at 9 percent, along with Palm Springs, compared to the 8 percent for the rest of the Valley. The tax is tacked on depending on, not where you buy your car, but where you register it.

"It'll certainly be a big help with the budget as we move forward," she said.

The Auto Dealers Association says the center experienced six months of consecutive growth, which is a hopeful synergy felt throughout the desert.

"As you look around the Valley, tourism is up, there’s construction, and home sales are increasing. A lot of demand follows car sales and vice versa," said Jessup Jr.

Car sales are one of the key driving forces for the city and some local families.

"Makes us feel better, since we have a baby now," said Cook.