Auto sales, up 10 percent, starting to get ‘back on track’ -- Gazette.Net



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The number of new vehicles sold in the state increased 10 percent in 2012 from 2011, greater than the 7 percent year-over-year rise in 2011, according to new figures from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

As in 2011, used-car sales were about level last year.

The value of both new- and used-vehicle sales increased in 2012 from 2011: by 11 percent to $9.3 billion for new vehicles and by 5 percent to $5.6 billion for used.

Pent-up demand and looser financing are two key factors for the rise, said Peter Kitzmiller, president of the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association.

“The problem we had with buyers getting financing from late 2007 through at least 2009 is pretty much not a problem anymore,” Kitzmiller said. “Then, a lot of people are back in the market. Demand is up. ... We’re starting to get things back on track, though we’re not near where we were in 2006.”

The nearly 290,000 new cars and light trucks sold in the state last year was about 110,000 fewer than sold in 2006. The 628,000 used vehicles sold was about 70,000 below the 2006 level.

But the average new-car purchase price last year — $29,312 — was up 12 percent from the 2006 average, while the average used price of $8,893 was 6 percent higher than in 2006. Those rises stem mostly from inflation, Kitzmiller said.

Darcars Automotive Group of Silver Spring saw its sales volume grow about 12 percent last year from 2011, said Tamara C. Darvish, vice president of the dealership group.

“People are having to trade their vehicles in sooner or later,” Darvish said. “Interest rates are about as low as they can get. Consumers can purchase a new vehicle close to the price of one that is three to four years old.”

Nationally, sales of new cars and light trucks rose by 13 percent to 14.5 million last year from 2011, according to industry research company Autodata Corp. Cars only jumped 19 percent, while light truck sales increased 8 percent.

Toyota and Volkswagen saw the largest percentage increases at 31 percent and 27 percent, respectively. Mitsubishi, Saab and American Suzuki were among the few companies that posted declines.

The top-selling vehicles last year were the Ford F-Series and Chevy Silverado pickup trucks, along with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Honda Civic, according to Cars.com.

Auto show season

This is the season for auto shows.

The Washington Auto Show, which features many Maryland dealers and exhibitors and is produced by the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association, will be held Feb. 1-10 at the Washington Convention Center.

The Motor Trend International Auto Show-Baltimore, coordinated by the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, is set for Feb. 7-10 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Darcars sends representatives to both shows, said Darvish, a past chairwoman of the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association and a board member of the National Automobile Dealers Association representing Washington, D.C., area dealers.

New vehicles continue to offer more technological features such as Bluetooth hands-free systems, she said.

The Baltimore show will feature more ride and drive opportunities from an increasing list of brands, Kitzmiller said. Areas will be set up outside the convention center to allow consumers to drive the vehicles.

There also will be a “mini-mountain” built inside the center for drivers to navigate a Jeep, and inside courses for electric vehicles, Kitzmiller said.

The Washington show will include a newly released “Advanced Technology Guide,” which gives guests better ideas of what future cars will look like, driving opportunities and a redesigned floor plan with a high-tech café and computer lounge.

Among the celebrities scheduled to appear are Karina Smirnoff, a winner in ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars;” Richard Rawlings, star of the Discovery Channel’s “Fast and Loud;” Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher; and professional wrestler Sheamus.

“The 2013 Washington Auto Show has more surprises and excitement lined up for our guests than in any of our previous years,” show Chairman Robert Fogarty said in a statement. Fogarty is general manager of Sport Honda in Silver Spring.

The Baltimore show is to feature some appearances by Baltimore Orioles players, and Kitzmiller said he hopes to see some by Baltimore Ravens players, though that may be more difficult with the Ravens playing in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

“The price went up to land the Ravens,” Kitzmiller said.

kshay@gazette.net