New-car sales rose 5% in Maryland last month Navigator's popularity boosts Lincoln ahead of Cadillac

Motor vehicles

October 28, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Maryland consumers ignored the stock market jitters and the Asian economic crisis last month to go on a mini new-car buying spree that boosted sales 5 percent, according to figures released yesterday by the state Motor Vehicle Administration.

The gain here was slightly less than the 6 percent jump in sales nationwide as the auto industry closed its books on the 1998 model year.

Vincent Trasatti Sr., president of East-West Lincoln and Mercury in Landover and secretary treasurer of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, said big factory incentives were enough to make many consumers forget about declining stock prices.

"Most manufacturers had strong incentive programs to end the model year and they generated a lot of business activity," Trasatti said.

According to title registrations, which are equivalent to sales, consumers bought 29,172 new vehicles in September, the MVA said. That compares with 27,777 bought during the corresponding period last year.

Sales of used vehicles totaled 47,755 in September, up 1.8 percent from the 46,920 units sold in September 1997, the MVA reported.

Dealers had 21 selling days last month, compared with 22 in September 1997.

Customer savings were also reflected in the average new-car price last month. According to the MVA, the average price of a new vehicle was $21,655 last month -- $265 below the August price.

Trasatti said Navigator sport utility sales were very strong last month -- so strong that they allowed Lincoln to best Cadillac as the top-selling luxury vehicle line for the model year, according to Automotive News, an industry trade publication.

If the sales trend holds the remainder of the calendar year, it will be the first time since 1939 that Lincoln has outsold Cadillac.

The Ford F-series pickup truck was the industry's top-selling vehicle last month. It was also the 17th consecutive model year that the Ford truck has been the sales leader.

For the quarter that ended Sept. 30, Maryland dealers sold 87,197 vehicles, down 1.3 percent from the 88,381 sold in the corresponding three months of 1997.

Used-vehicle sales rose 3 percent to 150,023 units in the quarter that just ended.

Pub Date: 10/28/98

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