New-car sales gain across state again

April increase more than 3 times that of entire U.S.

Maryland economy

June 03, 1999|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

New-car sales, a leading indicator of Maryland's economic health and consumer confidence, posted another strong gain in April, according to figures released yesterday by the state Motor Vehicle Administration.

It was the sixth consecutive month in which sales were higher than in the corresponding period of the previous year. Sales have been up in 10 of the past 12 months.

The gain here was more than three times that of the U.S. sales, where shipments of cars and light trucks jumped 3.8 percent over a strong April 1998.

Showroom business was stronger in April than in any April since the MVA resumed releasing registration figures, which equate to sales, in 1991. This was the second consecutive month this has happened.

"Business is booming," said Chuck Boyle, president of Boyle Buick Inc. in Abingdon and chairman of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, which represents the majority of Maryland's 350 new-car dealers.

"We are the beneficiaries of a good economy," Boyle said.

"Interest rates are good. Factory incentives are strong. We're hoping that the good times continue throughout the summer."

He said there is little hesitancy by consumers to commit to four- or five-year payment plans to replace their old vehicles.

"People have no fear of buying cars," he continued, "and there is a lot more credit worthi- ness now than in the past."

According to Anirban Basu, a senior economist with RESI, an economic research organization based at Towson University, new-car sales are one of the most accurate measures of the state's economic well-being.

Based on its title-registration figures, the MVA said consumers bought 33,133 new vehicles in April. That compares with 29,344 in April 1998.

The MVA reported total used-vehicle sales in April at 54,416. This was up 6.7 percent from the number of previously owned vehicles sold in April 1998.

There were 22 selling days in both periods.

While state motorists are buying more cars and light trucks, they are spending slightly less. The average price for a new car in April dropped $385 from March to $21,573.

Pub Date: 6/03/99

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