The spring new-car buying spree in Maryland continued last month as dealers enjoyed a nearly 6 percent jump in sales and posted their first back-to-back monthly gains in more than two years.
"I think we are picking up some sales we lost during the winter months," said Brian A. Fader, general manager and vice president of Owings Mills-based Heritage Automotive Group, one of the state's largest new-car retailers.
He said that the mild winter didn't take its usual toll on cars that were on the verge of breaking down, and that sales of four-wheel-drive vehicles were off.
But that slowdown in business, Fader said, "seems to have created a little more pent-up demand. People who didn't buy in the winter are buying now."
Bruce Rogers, president of Sherwood on the Shore, a Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealership in Berlin, said that while the dealership's car sales were off, the truck business was up.
He attributed that, in part, to the large grain crops and good prices for corn and soybeans enjoyed by state farmers last year.
Fader said the industry is also benefiting from lucrative consumer rebates being offered by manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, to stimulate sales.
"The dollar amount of the rebates are higher now than during the winter months," Fader said.
He said dealers are helped also from higher inventories that increase the chances of having the exact vehicle a buyer is seeking on the storage lot.
Maryland dealers sold 27,686 new cars and trucks last month, according to registration figures released by the state Motor Vehicle Administration. This compares with vehicle sales of 26,138 in the same period last year -- for an increase of 5.9 percent. Both periods had 22 selling days.
The April gain followed a 14.5 percent increase in new vehicle deliveries during March.
It marked the first time since January and February 1995 that state dealers have posted back-to-back monthly sales gains over the corresponding periods of the previous year.
Sales of used vehicles, both cars and trucks, rose 8.9 percent last month, the MVA said. Dealers sold 53,229 used vehicles, compared with 48,881 in April 1996. The average used-car price was $6,006 last month, a decline of $72 from March.
Pub Date: 5/12/97