Maryland new-car dealers launched the year on a positive note as sales rose 3.8 percent in January, according to figures released yesterday by the Motor Vehicle Administration.
"It's a good start on what is expected to be a good year for dealers," said Peter Kitzmiller, president of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association.
It was the third consecutive month in which sales were higher than in the corresponding period of the previous year.
Kitzmiller said dealers benefited from new models that were more plentiful in January than in late 1998.
Sales also reflected some easing of the tight supply of hot-selling trucks and sport-utility vehicles.
Kitzmiller said some manufacturers are shipping more trucks in this market. "It's not as many as dealers would like, but it's a help."
The jump in sales in Maryland compared with a 7.3 percent increase in car and light-truck sales in the nation, according to Automotive News, an industry trade publication.
Based on its title registration figures, which equate to sales, the MVA said consumers bought 24,210 new vehicles in Maryland in January. This compares with 23,323 in January 1998.
The MVA reported that total used-vehicle sales in January were off 4.2 percent. Dealers sold 37,115 previously owned vehicles in January, down from 38,759 in the same part of 1998.
Dealers had 19 selling days in January, less than in the same part of last year.
Although consumers were buying more cars, the MVA records show that they were spending slightly less on their purchases. The average price of a new car purchased in the state during January was $23,020, down from $23,516 in December 1998.
Automotive News reported that the full-size Ford pickup was the sales leader in January for all vehicles, followed by its counterpart at Chevrolet and the Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle.
No domestic cars were on the publication's top-10 sellers list for January. Only three cars made the list: Toyota Camry, No. 4; Honda Accord, No. 6; and Honda Civic, No. 10.
The other top sellers were the Ford Explorer, Dodge Ram pickup, Ford Ranger pickup, Dodge Caravan and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Pub Date: 3/04/99