MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twin Cities Auto Show is revving its engines and big crowds are a good sign of the continued economic recovery, according to experts.

"We had a big, big weekend," Scott Lambert with the Greater Metropolitan Automobile Dealers Association of Minnesota said about the crowds for the first few days of the show.

Lambert says the buyer is back.

Vehicle sales in the U.S. jumped 13.4 percent last year. Add in the fact that average vehicle is almost 11-years-old and it gives the auto dealer reason to smile. The most common term floated around the convention center is "pent up demand." The mood at the show is vastly different from the one KARE found four years ago.

"We were dropping 40 to 50 percent pretty regularly those years," Lambert said, recalling the rock bottom of the auto recession.

James Bell, the Head of Consumer Affairs for General Motors, says there's a much different story to tell in 2013.

"Wow. There's no way to really compare 08' and 09' to today. The market had just collapsed. We were at about 8.5 million car sales per year and we're now trending to be well over 15 million, so almost double the business has come back," he explained.

Bell says cars might be a bit more expensive than the average consumer might expect, but they're getting a lot more bang for their buck. The variety is greater. The number of bells, whistles and safety features are also readily apparent during first inspection. Industry analysts say the vehicles are more comfortable and efficient.

Brad Akers, who heads Ford Operations in the Twin Cities, agrees. He says there's good momentum going into the busy spring selling season.

"I think it just shows the resilience of the American consumer and the just the American spirit if you will. We just hunkered down and worked hard and sort of dug ourselves out of those difficult times," he explained.

The 40th annual Twin Cities Auto Show runs from through Sunday, March 17 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

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