New-car sales increase in Md.

IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT

some are skeptical

July 24, 1992|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Motor Vehicle AdministrationStaff Writer

Maryland motorists put their economic woes behind them, at least temporarily, and went on a new-car buying spree last month, according to figures released this week by the state Motor Vehicle Administration.

Sales of new vehicles in June jumped slightly more than 25 percent compared with the June 1991 volume, according to title registrations filed with the MVA. The figures showed 29,946 vehicles titled last month, up from 23,888 in June a year ago.

Used-car buyers got into the act, too, boosting sales in that category 9.2 percent during the month.

Despite June's strong sales, the MVA numbers showed that sales for the first six months of the year were up less than 1 percent.

The MVA figures were viewed with skepticism by at least one local economist who tracks new-car sales as a barometer of the state's economic health.

"We're doing better, yes, but I don't think we're doing 25 percent better," said Michael A. Conte, director of the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Center for Business and Economic Studies.

Mr. Conte expressed doubt that consumer confidence has taken such a dramatic U-turn or is indicating that the state's economy is heading toward recovery.

Mr. Conte questioned the MVA's reporting process. He said he wondered whether some sales from May were actually carried over and reported in June.

James P. Lang, a public information official with the MVA, stood behind the report, saying the figures reflected only vehicles registered from June 1 through June 30.

Joseph P. Carroll, executive director of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, also said he wondered about the MVA's numbers. "We're doing better," he said, "but not that much better."

Mr. Carroll said dealers have had good months but that there is not enough strength in the economy for them to sustain any growth.

But Herbert Denton, general manager of Keene Dodge in Jarrettsville, called a 25 percent gain "possible. For us, June was probably the best month in the history of our business, and we've been here for 12 years," Mr. Denton said.

He said that buyers who have come into his dealership in recent weeks seem to have more confidence in the economy than they did a year ago. But the bulk of the buyers "are people who really need cars," he said. "They have been patching up their old cars for a long time to keep it running. Our service department records show that."

Maryland auto sales

Number of new titles issued by the Motor Vehicle Administration, an indicator of car sales in Maryland.

.... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... ... Average price

... ... ... ... ... ... New cars... ... ... ... .. for new car

Month .. ..1991.. 1992... Change... . 1991... ... 1992... ... Change

January .21,253 ..18,232.. -14.2%... . $16,003... $16,293... +1.8%

DFebruary 15,884 ..15,153 ..-4.6%... .. $15,389 .. $16,238... +5.5%

March .. 19,521.. 22,352 ..+13.5%... ..$14,993... $15,744... +5.0%

DApril ...26,866.. 24,025.. -10.6%... . $14,617... $15,738 .. +7.5%

May ... .26,467.. 24,771 ..-6.4%... .. $14,704... $15,393... +4.7%

June ... 23,888.. 29,946.. +25.4% ... .$14,756... $15,685... +6.3%

6 mos.. 133,879..134,479 ..+0.4%... .. $15,025... $15,795....+5.1%

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