New sales decline sharply in Nov. Deliveries fall 22 percent compared with same time last year, MVA reports

December 07, 1996|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Maryland consumers may be spending freely on Christmas gifts this year, but they are tightening the purse strings when it comes to big ticket items such as automobiles.

New car sales took a sharp turn for the worse last month, as deliveries fell 22 percent below the November 1995 sales pace, the state Motor Vehicle Administration reported yesterday.

Sales last month were nearly 30 percent below the November 1994 level. The drop continued a pattern that has plagued Maryland car dealers all year. Based on MVA registration figures, sales have been off in nine of 11 months.

"Things have been slow all year, but all of a sudden they took a big dip," said Clarence Boyle Jr., president of Boyle Buick Inc. in Abingdon. "People quit buying. Floor traffic was off 50 percent."

Boyle suspects Maryland's sluggish economy -- which continues lag behind the nation in terms of income and job growth -- has something to do with the poor sales.

"There seems to be a fear on the part of people to purchase a big ticket item," said Boyle, noting that consumers may be unwilling to increase their already heavy debt. "With car prices going higher and higher, it is becoming harder for people buy new cars."

Thomas Gordon, president of Herb Gordon Auto World, which has Dodge, Nissan, Oldsmobile, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo stores in Silver Spring and Burkittsville, said a later Thanksgiving also cut into the traditional end-of-the-month sales rally.

"The shopping malls were packed with shoppers Thanksgiving weekend, but not the auto dealers," he said.

According to the MVA, dealers sold 19,466 new cars and trucks last month, a drop from the 25,010 vehicles sold in the same period last year. Dealers had 18 selling days last month, compared with 21 in November 1995.

The average price for new cars was $21,296, up from $20,502 in October and $19,578 in November of 1995. Used car sales, which account for a big part of most new car dealers' profits, also declined last month, but the drop wasn't nearly as steep as in the new car showroom.

Sales of used cars declined 3 percent, the MVA said. Sales totaled 37,711 last month, compared with 38,875 in November 1995. The average used car price was $6,231 last month.

Pub Date: 12/07/96

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