Subaru vehicles in Montrose

Subaru vehicles on display at the Flower Subaru dealership in Montrose, photographed on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. 

The Montrose County Clerk and Recorder’s Office recorded record-highs in collected auto tax for the month of June and July, Montrose County Clerk and Recorder Tressa Guynes confirmed.

In June, the county collected a record-setting $143,493.45 in auto tax, and $128,491 for July, also a record for the month — the county’s previous high in a single month was $99,000.

The county collects the tax — collected at the county clerk’s office when vehicles are registered or renewed — on behalf of the City of Montrose. The county later sends that tax to the city.

But before the record-setting recovery, the city recorded decreases during the start of the pandemic. According to the use and sales tax report by the City of Montrose, the following figures showed severe drops compared to Feb. - May of 2019.

• February: -21.3%

• March: -16.2%

• April: -27.5%

• May: -35.4%

Shani Wittenberg, finance director for the City of Montrose, offered a reason for the steep declilnes.

“When vehicles are purchased, [customers] normally get a temporary license, and then when they register it with the county, they pay this tax. During COVID, some of the temporary tags may have been extended and the tax wasn't paid until June, which left March, April and May short on collections,” Wittenberg wrote in an email.

According to Guynes, this year, through May, the county was averaging $76,200 a month in collected auto tax.

Now, with June and July accounted for, the county is now averaging $93,000, a sharp increase after a lackluster spring.

“People are enjoying a good economy,” Guynes said.

The revenue from auto use tax, Wittenberg added, will help the city provide street and park improvements as well as public safety for the community.

Guynes added the county saw an increase in vehicle purchases over the past few months. Summer typically acts as the busiest time of year, but the 2020 summer turned out unusual numbers, making it clear this year was different.

Guynes surmised people were anxious to get out and enjoy the summer after a strange spring where plenty of time was spent indoors. Also, Guynes said there was a flood of people registering vehicles in Montrose County that came from Utah, Denver, Arizona and California.

At Flower Subaru in Montrose, once June hit, vehicles were leaving the lot with ease.

“We can't get Subarus in fast enough to meet the demand,” said Leland Brashers, TradeUp advantage director at Flower Subaru.

The dealership recorded record sales in June, Brashers said, with demand through the roof once the Montrose location reopened after shutting down for some time. Customers had been waiting months to make a purchase, and eager to make it sooner than later since manufacturers shut down during the pandemic.

“When we reopened, that's when things skyrocketed,” Brashers said.

Brashers attributes the record June to three factors: pent up demand, attractive finance interest and strong customer service.

The finance rate before COVID-19 was 3.49%. Since reopening, the 2020 Subaru Outback, the dealership’s most popular vehicle, could be had for 0% financing, a rate that’s been attractive for customers on the hunt for a new car.

“Consumer reports named Subaru as the number one brand, the best finance, the best service in the industry, which has opened the door to opportunities we haven't gotten before,” Brashers said.

Customers were particularly keen on securing the 2020 Subaru Outback, which is in its first year with a turbo engine. Currently, the dealership has zero Outbacks in stock, Brashers said, due to demand.

The Subaru Ascent, Forester and Crosstrek have also been popular with buyers the past few months at Flower Subaru.

Additionally, a slow down in manufacturing played a factor in Davis Service Center’s inventory. It’s why, along with strong sales this summer, the dealer found itself low on off-road vehicles for purchase.

“We’re fighting the same thing the auto dealers are,” said Lincoln Davis, general manager of Davis Service Center. With inventory going out, and nothing coming in, the lineup started to stretch thin.

“With sales being normal to strong this year, we were running low on inventory,” Davis said. Davis Center reached out to other dealers to do some inventory trading, hopeful to help fill specific needs.

But demand has been strong and present, said Davis, especially for side-by-side ATV’s. Families have purchased four-seat side-by-side ATV’s, possibly anxious to take an off-roading trip after being cooped up inside during the shut down, Davis said.

On street sales “aren’t crazy,” Davis said, but any decline in the street side is made up for on the off-road side.

Guynes mentioned, with the county averaging $93,000 in auto tax collected per month, if the trend continues, the city will have a pretty significant increase in spending ability.

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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