DAVIE (CBS4) – At Rick Case Honda in Davie on the Fourth of July business was, well, hot.  The showroom was crowded with customers not just looking but buying.  The dealership sold 615 new Hondas in June, more than 20 every day, its best performance in three years.

The success at the dealership in Davie is being reflected across south Florida and the country.  Nationwide, new car sales in June were up a whopping 22 percent year to year.

Just a couple of years ago, in the depth of the recession, some dealerships, like Dade Chrysler Jeep and Dodge in Kendall, were going belly up, closing their doors.  General Motors got bailed out by the federal government.  A rebate program called “Cash For Clunkers” kept the auto industry on life support.

What accounts for the improvement now?  Analysts credit banks that have begun lending money again, and at low rates.  Manufacturers are also offering big incentives and the price of gasoline is dropping.

“We have 0.9 percent financing on all our vehicles,” said Rick Case General Manager Richard Bustillo.  “We have amazing lease specials and we have employee pricing, so consumers come in and pay what we pay.”

Gonzalo Montoya, a printer, and his wife, Mabel, a bookkeeper, were at the dealership Wednesday looking to leave with a new car.

“Things are getting better, they look like they’re getting better,” the husband said of the economy.  “Where I’m working, things are picking up.  So I feel confident about it.”

Robert Feldman, an inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration, was planning to buy two new cars Wednesday, a CRV for himself and a Civic for his wife.

“I’ve always been an optimist,” Feldman said of the nation’s economic future.  “I see the glass as half-full.”

Francine Hebert, a bank teller, said she was looking to buy but not spend too much.

“I know somebody who works here,” she said, laughing.  “I hope to get a good deal.”

The resurgence of the auto industry has had a trickle-down effect.  Manufacturers are opening more plants and hiring more workers.

At Rick Case Honda, salesman Doug Desloover said the steadily improved business has helped the quality of life for him and his two children.

“It’s definitely made it easier to afford the luxuries that we were used to, and even some of the simple things, like putting food on the table,” he said.

An improved car business certainly doesn’t signal that the economy has become turbo-charged.  Unemployment remains high and overall consumer confidence figures are low.  But the increased speed of new cars going out the door would suggest consumers are taking their foot off the break a little, and putting it a bit more on the gas.

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