Md. new-car sales up 17.3% in November

State's record surge is more than twice nation's 7.5% rise

January 12, 2002|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

New-car sales in Maryland jumped 17.3 percent in November over November 2000, according to figures released yesterday by the Motor Vehicle Administration.

Lured by low-interest financing - zero percent on many models - motorists bought nearly 5,000 more cars and light trucks during the 20 selling days of November than during the corresponding part of 2000, which had 19 selling days.

The November 2001 sales were the highest for any November since the MVA resumed releasing registration figures in 1991.

Because dealers have 30 days after the end of the month to report transactions to the MVA, the November sales figures are the latest available.

The flurry of showroom activity in Maryland compared with only a 7.5 percent rise in sales for the nation as a whole during the same month.

"This means that our economy is doing better than expected," said Anirban Basu, director of applied economics for Towson University's RESI research institute. "This mean the recession is milder than expected."

The Big Three automakers - General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, offered interest-free car loans on most models to stimulate sales after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

According to MVA registration figures, dealers sold 33,641 new cars and trucks in November. That compares with purchases of 28,680 in the like part of 2000.

Light trucks, including pickups, sport utility vehicles and minivans, accounted for a big part of the November sales boom, according to Jeffrey A. Foltz, editor of Maryland Auto Outlook, a trade publication for state auto dealers.

"Zero percent financing threw a lot of people into the market who were thinking about a new car, but not ready to take the step," Foltz said. "November was much stronger than dealers expected." He said truck sales soared because it was the first time that the hot-selling vehicles were included in the manufacturers' most aggressive incentive plans.

"Zero percent financing on these popular vehicles, at a time when gas prices were low, added some extra juice to the market in November," Foltz said.

For the first time in U.S. automotive history, trucks outsold cars by a slight margin last year.

For the whole industry, light trucks made up 53.2 percent of November sales, according to Automotive News, an industry trade publication.

The jump in new-car and truck sales led to more trade-ins, resulting in good buys at used-car lots. Used-car sales rose 14 percent in November to 52,583 vehicles.

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