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Detroit auto show offers preview for upcoming Cleveland event, Classic Auto founder says

By Jim Mackinnon
Beacon Journal business writer

Jim Brown makes a point of going to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit every year.

Monday, when the show opened only to media members and industry insiders, was no different for Brown, founder of Classic Auto Group. Classic Auto owns and operates 24 vehicle franchises in 16 locations, including Streetsboro.

Brown flew there to walk around and kick the tires on vehicles he expects to see in his showrooms in the near future. The Detroit show opens to the public on Saturday.

“The car business, the products, are changing so quickly. They tell you everything up there,” Brown said. “For people who like cars, it’s an exciting place.”

Brown said he was intrigued with the latest vehicle styling and technology, from expensive BMWs, Mercedes and Cadillacs down to family-affordable Toyotas and Hyundais.

Manufacturers debut many of their vehicles at the Detroit show, which is different from the annual Cleveland Auto Show that runs later in the year, Brown said. The Cleveland show, sponsored by the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association, opens to the public on March 1 and will feature many of the same vehicles.

The Cleveland show is still one of the largest in the nation, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to the I-X Center, Brown said.

“It creates excitement in the market. A lot of families go,” he said. The Cleveland show is considered the spring sales kickoff for dealers in the region.

The auto market has solidly rebounded from the Great Recession, Brown said, with lease financing becoming attractive. Between a third to half of his business are leases.

People in the market for a new car can lease a new $20,000 to $27,000 vehicle for under $300 a month for three years, with little to no down payment and including warranty and maintenance, he said.

“People spend more money on Starbucks coffee than a new car,” Brown quipped.

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544.


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