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Hunting for car hunters

carmax-2047rd.jpgWho knew that finding a customer could be so hard? Well, maybe car dealers these days already knew that.

Today’s story about how Maryland car dealerships are struggling because of the economic downturn talks about how there’s fewer people buying cars — but I definitely felt that truth first-hand when I set out to find some car shoppers to talk to this week.

After an hour and 15 minutes of walking into five dealerships and slowing to a crawl in front of several other lots to do a quick scan for any movement, I found a grand total of one customer.

OK, granted, a weekday morning is probably not the best time to find people out car-hunting, but the complete lack of activity is still worth noting. And the excited looks that quickly turned to disappointment on the faces of the salesmen when I told them I was not interested in buying a car is also worth mentioning.

Needless to say the thousands of cars, dozens of salesmen and the lone customer I encountered is certainly a snapshot — albeit slightly exaggerated — of what this industry is facing right now. And on top of that, attempts from industry lobbyists this week to get Congress to approve a $25 billion loan to America’s automakers were stalled this week.

Do you think the industry is in dire straits and should get federal assistance?

Or has anyone gone car shopping recently and been utterly disappointed? Or had the car financing blues? Share with us your experience!

LIZ FARMER, Business Writer