SALT LAKE CITY – A strong market demand for used cars will continue this year and into next, spurring a leasing comeback and leading to higher new-car sales in 2012.

That is the “good-news” prediction of Jerry Seiner, a high-profile dealer here with multi-brand stores at three metro locations.

Those facilities have stepped up their used-car operations to offset the industry’s new-car sales drought of the last two years.

“We’re darn well focusing on used, the way things are going,” Seiner tells Ward’s, citing high values for auto makers’ certified pre-owned program vehicles in particular and “good used cars” in general.

The so-called “Great Recession” has caused many consumers, who typically buy new cars under better circumstances, to cut back on spending.

“They are downsizing their expenses, which leads to many of them buying quality used cars,” Seiner says.

The new- and used-car markets play off each other, he notes. “When new-car sales drop, it’s because used-car prices are down and so trade-ins become harder.”

Conversely, strong used-car prices of late could spur consumers to do trade ins for new vehicles.

Seiner gives his stores “a C-minus” for their efforts at selling used cars. “We want to get that up to a B-plus.”

The better grade will come from stepping up used-car marketing, especially on the Internet, as well as turning inventory more often, he says.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com