By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Around Memorial Day and Labor Day every year, two of Tupelo’s largest and oldest automobile dealerships partner for “Autofest” at the Tupelo Furniture Market.
The two dealerships – Tupelo Auto Sales and Dossett Big 4 – empty their lots and take hundreds of new and pre-owned cars, trucks and SUVs to the market’s vast parking lot for potential customers to look at, test drive and, hopefully, buy.
“This is geared for the public – everything’s outside, they can test-drive anything they want, they’re not stuck in an office or showroom. It’s a totally different atmosphere and a lot more relaxed,” said Rudy Dossett Jr.
The biannual event has been going on for about 30 years, and the dealers are wrapping up this year’s first Autofest this weekend.
“We’re hoping and expecting a good weekend,” said Hoyt Sheffield, the owner of Tupelo Auto Sales – a Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealership.
U.S. auto sales are back on track as the economy recovers. Reuters said May sales are expected to rise about 8 percent and the annual sales pace should be about 15 million.
J.D. Power said truck sales account for more than 11 percent of overall industry sales this month.
Sheffield said sales overall are stronger, but it’s been a “strange” month.
“I’ve been in this car business for 57 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “We started out strong, but it tapered off – I think the weather had a lot to do with it. But it’s picked back up, and it looks like it will be a very good weekend.”
Around midday on Friday, Sheffield passed on a set of keys to a customer who was the proud owner of a new Ram truck.
“Trucks and Jeep Wranglers – they’ve been the top sellers for us so far,” Sheffield said.
Adjacent to Tupelo Auto Sales is Dossett Big 4, which sells Buick, Cadillac, GMC and Honda.
Dossett said pre-owned cars continue to sell well, and new vehicle sales have been boosted by incentives.
“The floodgates have opened up,” he said, citing a rebate value as much as much as $9,250. Zero-percent financing also is available to qualified buyers.
“Pretty much if you want something, they’re giving you plenty of options,” Dossett said of the automakers.
Autofest is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Monday’s final day of the Autofest will start a 9 a.m. and will be open “until,” Dossett said.