by: Jim Strickland Updated:
ATLANTA - The largest car dealer in the nation is using pickup truck sales to gauge the resurgence in the metro area housing market.
Florida-based AutoNation has 12 stores in the Atlanta area. CEO Mike Jackson, a member of Atlanta's Federal Reserve Board, spoke exclusively to Channel 2's Jim Strickland on a recent trip to Atlanta.
Jackson said he can feel the turnaround in the economy when he looks at truck sales.
"We think pickup truck sales are a leading indicator for the economy, and for our company, pickup truck sales today are up 19 percent," Jackson said.
Todd Ver Steeg, who co-owns a power equipment company, bought a Ford pickup from the Marietta store two months ago.
"We sell and service products that are installing gas, water, power, electric, so we are closely tied to the housing market," said Ver Steeg, co-owner of Vermeer Southeast power equipment.
His wood-chippers help clear debris for new subdivisions and utility upgrades. He'll buy a dozen trucks this year. That represents a huge turnaround from the housing bust of 2009.
"When we had to invest in equipment and new pickup trucks we had to delay that decision for two years," he said.
Research firm MetroStudy said Atlanta housing starts are up 50 percent from last year.
"Those are local jobs. The contractors and the trades that support all that construction need pickup trucks to go to work," said Jackson.
Jackson sees increased domestic energy production as another long term key to a stronger economy, but he told Strickland continued uncertainty in Washington will be a drag.