With the approach of summer, the release of new model year vehicles to local dealerships is just around the corner.

Spring and summer are traditionally busy selling seasons at automobile dealerships throughout the country, according to Kevin Carrington, product specialist at Fort’s Toyota at 120 Radio City Dr., North Pekin. Families are planning vacations and are looking to ensure they have dependable vehicles for long drives. Also, wear and tear on vehicles brought on by winter often brings motorists to local dealerships when the weather gets warmer.

“Maybe they just came off of a winter that was a little rough on their cars and they decide ‘I don’t want another year of this. It’s time to update my car,’” said Carrington.

Tim Saurs, owner and president of Velde Ford at 2200 N. Eighth St., Pekin, said summer is a time when manufacturers traditionally offer factory incentives to attract customers.

“If the rebates get bigger on a certain vehicle, that can spike sales,” he said.

Although most 2020 models will not arrive at dealerships until the beginning of the new model year in September, the 2020 Toyota Corolla arrived at Fort’s about two weeks ago, said Carrington. No 2020 models have arrived at Velde Ford, but the Ford Ranger has returned with a 2019 model after an eight-year hiatus.

“They quit making the Ranger in 2011, so we’ve been without it for eight years,” said Saurs. “It’s smaller than an F-150, but it’s bigger than the old Ranger. So far, it’s been a big hit. We have a 2020 Bronco coming out, probably in the next six months. The 2020 Explorer will probably be out in the next six months.” 

Last year’s top seller at Fort’s was the Toyota RAV4 sport utility vehicle. Carrington expects that trend to continue this year, but also expects cars like the Camry and Corolla to sell well in the summer. 

“People really like the new RAV 4. It’s a new look,” Carrington said. “They changed it for 2019, and they really did a good job on the new body style, inside and out. People say it rides better, it’s quieter, it’s smoother, and they’re really enjoying it.” 

Velde Ford’s top three sellers so far have been the Escape, the Edge and the F-150 pickup truck, Saurs said.

“The F-150’s been the number one selling vehicle, car or truck for over 42 years,” he added. “That’s across the industry. When you come to the end of a model year, there’s always a push ... on F-150s because Ford wants to make it 43 years in a row rather than just 42.”

Carrington said Toyota manufacturers are concentrating on safety and fuel economy. Toyota Safety Sense — which includes such features as early warnings, automatic emergency braking and autmoatic emergency lane-changing — will be standard on all vehicles.

Some of the other manufacturers out there have decided they’re only going to put some of these extra safety features on their more expensive cars,” he said. “Toyota took a different stance and decided to put them on all (models). We’re more concerned about keeping everyone safe, no matter which car they purchased.”

Currently, Toyota offers a few of its models as hybrids that give motorists a choice between an internal, gasoline-powered combustion engine or an electric motor. In hopes of improving fuel economy, Carrington said, the corporation is working toward offering hybrids on all models.

“Over the last two years, the fuel economy has gone up and up and up,” he added. “They’re starting to introduce hybrids in every vehicle. It used to be only two or three vehicles were hybrids. Now, Toyota’s going to put it in every vehicle eventually. That’s kind of exciting. For the new Corolla, it’s getting you 52 miles to the gallon, which is pretty amazing fuel economy.”

Toyota is also working to introduce all-wheel drive technology on all vehicles. Currently, models like the Camry and the Corolla still use front-wheel drive, according to Carrington.

The Ford Motor Company does not appear to share Toyota Motor Corporation’s enthusiasm for hybrid vehicles. The Ford Fusion is available as a hybrid, and the 2020 Ford Explorer will offer the option, according to Saurs. But the Ford Escape no longer offers the option and the C-Max multi-purpose vehicle, which was available as a hybrid, has been discontinued.

“There hasn’t been a whole lot of interest in hybrids yet,” said Saurs. “But I think that might change.”

A change that Ford Motor Company has begun to make is a shift in manufacturing priorities. According to Saurs, the company is planning to focus on utility vehicles and trucks rather than cars.

“Ford’s pretty much stopping all cars,” he said. “The Focus is not being built in 2019, and they’ll come back with it in 2020. By 2022, the Fusion’s going to be gone, and the Taurus will be gone. We’re going to have two cars: the Mustang and the Focus. Other than that, it’s going to all be SUVs: little ones, mid-size and big ones. Chevy’s doing it, too, I believe. Probably the manufacturers weren’t making any money from building the cars and sales didn’t justify them having a plant building them.”