Sales of new cars and light trucks in Maryland shot up 15.1 percent last month, well above the national level, according to figures released yesterday by the state Motor Vehicle Administration.
It was the 20th consecutive month in which sales were higher than in the corresponding period of the previous year.
"We are the benefactors of a good, strong economy," said Chuck Boyle, chairman of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, which represents the majority of the state's 350 new-car dealerships.
The gain last month was almost identical to the sales boost that dealers experienced in May, when auto deliveries were 15.15 percent ahead of the corresponding period a year ago.
"We don't know how long this will last," said Boyle, "but sales just keep going up and up."
Sales were stronger last month than any June since 1991, when the MVA resumed releasing title-registration figures, which equate with sales.
Economists credit the boom in auto sales, a key measure of the state's economic health, to Maryland's economic growth, which continues well ahead of the national pace.
For the nation as a whole, new-car sales were up last month, but barely. U.S. dealers sold 0.7 percent more cars and light trucks in June than in the like part of 1999, according to Automotive News, an industry trade publication.
The MVA said Maryland consumers bought 39,697 new vehicles last month. That compares with sales of 34,489 in the corresponding period of last year.
Sales of used vehicles rose 4.3 percent last month to 56,610.
Boyle said used-vehicle sales are holding strong and this is having a positive impact on new-car sales. He explained that there frequently is such a small difference in the price of a clean, late-model used car and a new one that used-car shoppers often move up to new models.
"Consumer confidence seems to be high and consumers have no reluctance to spend money," Boyle said.
For the first six months of the year, new-car sales in Maryland totaled 207,113. This is 16.26 percent ahead of the 178,138 new cars sold during the first half of 1999.
Sales of used cars were up 3.3 percent for the first half of the year, the MVA said, totaling 301,614.
For the nation as a whole, dealers sold 7 percent more new cars during the first half of the year than during the like part of 1999.