Md. auto dealers have 2nd-best March

Sales of new cars, light trucks rise 3.2%, defy national trend

May 10, 2002|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

New-car sales continued to roll along at a robust pace in Maryland in March, according to figures released yesterday by the state Motor Vehicle Administration.

State motorists bought 34,225 new cars and light trucks during March, a gain of 3.2 percent when compared with sales during March last year.

The 3.2 percent increase in new-vehicle sales in Maryland compares with a 5.1 percent decline in sales nationwide.

It marked the sixth consecutive month in which vehicle sales in Maryland were higher than during the corresponding period of the previous year.

March sales were the second-highest for that month since 1991 when the MVA resumed releasing registration figures, which equate with sales. The record was set in March 2000, when state dealers sold 38,605 new vehicles.

"New-car sales are a very important economic indicator and they continue to show that Maryland is outperforming the national economy," said Anirban Basu, director of applied economics for Towson University's RESI research institute. "Maryland enjoys a number of economic engines that most of the nation doesn't have."

He listed academic research, large federal employment and a big defense sector as factors contributing to the state's good economic health.

Used-car sales were nearly 9 percent higher than those of March 2001. Dealers sold 58,794 previously owned vehicles in March this year.

According to the MVA, the average used-car price in March was $7,133, about a third of the average new-car price of $23,540.

Basu attributed the rise in used-vehicle sales to some growth in lower-paying service and retail trade jobs in the state.

Joseph B. Aiello, president of JBA Chevrolet and Mitsubishi in Glen Burnie and a director of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, said that most of the state's approximately 350 new-car outlets are enjoying increased sales.

Aiello said sales at his two dealerships were up about 30 percent in March.

He said truck sales, particularly sport utility vehicles, remain extremely hot. "Most of the demand is for the mid-size SUVs, including the Chevrolet Trail Blazer," he said.

"The big SUVs are also selling pretty good," Aiello said. "We see people coming in and buying $30,000 and $40,000 trucks without batting an eye."

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