New car sales in Md. during July rose 27% over '92 7-month figures also show gains

August 21, 1993|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Staff Writer

Nobody is talking about a return of the good ol' days yet, but there are signs that Maryland's beleaguered auto sales industry is on the road to recovery.

According to title registration figures released yesterday by the state Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), dealers sold 27 percent more new vehicles last month than in July 1992.

And the MVA's figures for the first seven months of the year were up nearly 8 percent over the same period last year.

The sharp monthly gain took industry people by surprise, and left some wondering whether the numbers were inflated by a few big fleet sales. However, it is not possible to tell from the state report whether such sales boosted the data.

Looking at the broader seven-month period, Michael A. Conte, director of regional economic studies at the University of Baltimore, said an 8 percent gain over the January-to-July span in 1992 was an encouraging development that could be a boost to Maryland's economy.

Cars are typically the second-largest item consumers buy and these sales "filter through the economy and help drive the recovery," he said.

"Eight percent is a very healthy number," he added, noting that total retail sales, by comparison, were up less than 1 percent in the state during the same period. Mr. Conte at tributed increased auto sales to the lowest interest rates on new car loans in years.

Alan Abramson, head of Archway Ford on Reisterstown Road in Northwest Baltimore, said car buyers with good credit can expect a loan rate between 7 percent and 8 percent.

According to the MVA, dealers sold 30,250 new vehicles last month at an average cost of $16,668. During July 1992, which had one more selling day than this year, sales were 23,751 and the average cost was $15,858.

Used-vehicle sales totaled 44,172 last month, compared to 43,092 a year ago. The average price of a used car was $4,704 in July, up from $4,082 in the same period last year.

Joseph P. Carroll, executive director of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, said the market seemed to be "spotty" with dealers hoping for a period of sustained growth.

Mr. Carroll said that a large percentage of the sales were to customers needing to replace vehicles that were worn out, rather than to consumers who bought simply because they wanted a new car.

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