OAK LAWN (CBS) – It hasn’t been that long since dealerships across Chicagoland shut their doors and went out of business.

Now it’s a completely different story, CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports.

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Jim Muisenga, the general manager at Hawk Ford in Oak Lawn, says a turnaround has already revved up.

“In 2009, we sold 1,056 new cars and trucks. In 2010, we sold 1,246,” he said.

David Whiston, Morningstar’s senior auto equity analyst, says there’s reason to be optimistic.

In 2009, 10.4 million new cars were sold in the U.S. Last year, just under 11.6 million were purchased. Whiston predicts 13 million cars will be sold in 2011.

“The worst is definitely over,” Whiston says.

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He cites two reasons for the boost in car sales among America’s Big Three automakers. Consumers think it’s worth it to buy a new car instead of patching up their old vehicle; meanwhile, consumer confidence is up.

Also helping, according to car dealer Muisenga, is better access to financing.

“Compared to 2009, the bank lending atmosphere and environment has been much deeper and much stronger for us, so we’re able to provide financing for more of our customers,” he said.

Business has been so good at the Ford dealership, Muisenga said, they’re not only adding office space at the dealership but hiring, too.

“I need more people to help the people that are coming in the store,” he said.

Muisenga said the so-called “Cash for Clunkers” program improved sales numbers significantly in 2009, but figures were still way ahead in 2010 — a true sign that the economy is improving.

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Whiston says another reason why new purchases are up is that small businesses are replacing their old vehicles with new ones.