New-car sales up 16.3% in state from March '98

Month's gains called an indicator of Md.'s economic health

April 30, 1999|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

New-car sales, a barometer of Maryland's economic health, jumped 16.3 percent last month, according to figures released yesterday by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

It was the fifth consecutive month in which sales were higher than in the corresponding period of the previous year. Sales have been up in nine of the past 11 months.

Showroom business was stronger last month than in any March since the MVA resumed releasing title registration figures, which equate to sales, in 1991.

"Business is good, there's no doubt about it," said Chuck Boyle, president of Boyle Buick Inc. in Abingdon and chairman of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association.

"The economy remains strong, and the manufacturers are providing good incentives," he said.

Anirban Basu, a senior economist with RESI, an economic research organization based at Towson University, said that new-car sales are a "very powerful leading economic indicator" and it says the state is doing well.

"There are a number of factors that have converged recently to create a near-ideal environment for auto purchases in Maryland," said Basu. "First, the state's economy has finally caught up with the rest of the nation in terms of employment and personal income."

He also said auto dealers are benefiting from low interest rates that are a stimulant to durable goods purchases.

In addition, said Basu, some investors "have begun cashing in on capital gains, out of fear of a large stock market correction. In many instances, it appears that the people in Maryland are taking their income and spending it on new cars."

The MVA's records show that consumers bought 31,132 new vehicles last month.

That compares with 26,777 bought during March 1998.

Used-vehicle sales were brisk last month also, but they failed to match the activity in the new-car showroom.

Sales of previously owned vehicles totaled 53,221 in March, up 6 percent from the 50,196 units sold in March 1997, the MVA reported.

Dealers had 23 selling days last month, one more than in March 1998.

According to the MVA, the average price of a new vehicle was $21,958 last month -- down $501 from the average price in February.

The average used-vehicle price was $6,874 in March, up from $6,599 in February.

Pub Date: 4/30/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.