New-car sales in state drop 10.3% August decline followed June, July buying sprees

Auto industry

October 02, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Maryland new car and truck dealers ended a three-month run of higher sales in August when vehicle deliveries dropped 10.3 percent below the corresponding period of the previous year, according to figures released yesterday by the Motor Vehicle Administration.

The decline compared to a drop of 6.6 percent in vehicle sales for the entire U.S. industry, due primarily to the strike at General Motors Corp.

Noting that auto sales in Maryland were strong in June and July, Peter Kitzmiller, president of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, said that incentive programs offered by the manufacturers to boost sales in early summer took away some of the August business.

"Ford was very aggressive in its efforts to beat General Motors," Kitzmiller said. "Lincoln was very, very aggressive to beat Cadillac."

Based on title registrations, which equate to sales, the MVA said consumers bought 27,087 new vehicles in August. That compares with 30,221 bought during same month last year. The August sales were the lowest for the month since 1992, when dealers sold 26,408 new cars and trucks.

During the first eight months of the year, dealers sold 222,360 new cars and trucks. This was 3.3 percent below the 229,936 vehicles they sold in the same period last year.

The used-car lots fared much better during August.

Sales of previously owned vehicles totaled 49,710 in August, up 1.2 percent, from the 49,130 units sold in August 1997, the MVA reported.

According to the MVA, the average price of a new vehicle was $21,930 in August -- up $563 from the average price in July.

Except for GM, which suffered from the strike, sales were strong in August, according to Automotive News, an industry trade publication. GM sales were 36 percent lower than during August 1997.

Toyota and Lexus posted record sales in August. Ford posted its fourth straight month of record truck sales.

Volkswagen had its best sales month since 1981, and Chrysler Corp. posted record sales, the trade publication reported.

The Toyota Camry, with sales of 40,553, was the best-selling car in the country during August.

Pub Date: 10/02/98

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