Bobbi Sparrow says she knows at least part of the reason Arizonans aren’t buying as many new cars as they used to.
Too much news.
And the president of the Arizona Automobile Dealers Association has taken to the airwaves to spread that message.
“Don’t let the news media influence what you can and can’t buy,” Sparrow says in radio commercials paid for by her organization. Other ads carry a similar message telling listeners to ignore — or at least minimize — the news.
“It isn’t their fault,” Sparrow said of reporters, editors, news directors and editorial writers who write and broadcast about state and national economic woes. The problem, she said, is the “overwhelming amount of it” that readers, viewers and listeners are getting.
“We are bombarded right now with gloom and doom on the news,” she said.
All that bad economic news, Sparrow continued, is affecting consumer confidence. And the problem is not limited to her industry.
“I think they’re being convinced not to buy anything, not just cars,” Sparrow explained. “I think that the overwhelming negative press makes people feel like they’re terrified to even move ahead with their lives.”
But it has been her industry which has been hit particularly hard.
Figures prepared by legislative budget staffers who analyze sales tax collections show that the sale of cars and automotive products is down a whopping 27 percent now compared with the same time a year earlier.
By contrast, the sale of building materials – a key indicator of Arizona’s lagging construction industry — is off by almost 14 percent. And a separate levy on contracting is down close to 18 percent.
Separately, figures collected by the state Department of Commerce show employment by vehicle dealers and retailers that sell car and truck parts is down 7.7 percent statewide from the same time a year earlier, and off by 6.2 percent in the Phoenix metro area. That compares with a 3.1 percent drop in all employment statewide and 3.0 percent in the Valley.
Sparrow said she was not suggesting that reporters ignore what is happening with the economy, including the state’s rising jobless rate, home foreclosures and businesses shuttering. What she said is lacking is balance.
“I think that there are some good stories and some good companies that are doing well out there,” she said. “We’re not reading about them.”
And that, she said, includes her own industry.
“There are a lot of dealers who are doing well who are still employing a lot of people,” Sparrow said. She also said many dealers do things, particularly around the holidays, to help others.
“I don’t think we’re hearing anything positive,” she said. “We’re just hearing the negative.”
So what’s the solution?
Short of being able to control the media, Sparrow said she has taken matters into her own hands: She’s using the “off” switch.
“I quit listening to all the talking heads because it does get to me,” she said. “It’s their story to be as dramatic as possible and to pull you in.”
Sparrow said she gets all the information she needs by reading the Internet at work, picking out the stories she wants — and ignoring the rest.
The radio ads are special in another way: Rather than hiring outside “talent” to read the script, Sparrow chose to do it herself.
“I think that I probably care more than anybody that could be paid to do it,” she said.
“I care that this industry does well,” Sparrow said. “So, hopefully, my voice carried that.”