Auto sales continue to rise -- Gazette.Net


Tamara C. Darvish remembers the lean times during the recession when dealers tried to lure buyers through “cash for clunkers” and other programs.

Therefore, seeing another jump in new-vehicle sales — the fourth consecutive annual statewide increase since the decade low point of 2009 — in 2013 from 2012 is a welcome development, even if sales figures have yet to return to pre-recession levels.

Silver Spring-based Darcars Automotive Group, where Darvish is vice president, saw sales rise by 17 percent last year, higher than the 6 percent statewide increase.

“Consumers are feeling more confidence,” said Darvish, a member of the board of directors of the National Automobile Dealers Association, representing Washington-area franchised new-car dealers. “We have great finance rates and incentives available.”

The roughly 335,000 new vehicles sold in Maryland last year was the highest number since about 378,000 in 2007, according to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. The average sales price continued to climb to more than $30,000, as the $10.1 billion worth of new cars sold in the state was the most since $10.4 billion in 2006 and greatly improved from $6.7 billion worth sold in 2009.

Used-vehicle sales statewide rose 3 percent from 2013 to about 645,000 and $6.0 billion.

Maryland’s new-vehicle sales increase was slightly below the 8 percent nationwide jump. The federal government shutdown and sequester budget cuts could have something to do with that, said Peter Kitzmiller, president of the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association.

“That didn’t help us,” he said of the shutdown. “A big part of our market here is government workers. While they mostly got paid, a lot of contractors didn’t.”

Besides the improvement in the economy, more accessible financing and pent-up demand were factors for last year’s better year, Kitzmiller said. The much better fuel economy with the new vehicles is another reason, he said.

“A lot of people have put off buying vehicles for a long time,” Kitzmiller said.

Auto show season

Darcars and other Maryland dealerships are involved in the Washington Auto Show, which started Thursday and runs through Feb. 2 at the Washington Convention Center.

Darvish, also a past board chair of the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association, which organizes the Washington show, plans to be at the show next week following this weekend’s NADA convention in New Orleans. The event showcases more than 700 vehicles from some 40 manufacturers.

The continued technological changes in new vehicles, from hands-free phone systems to sensors that make drivers aware of objects in the way, is a key theme of the show, Darvish said.

Technology also is a big part of the Motor Trend International Auto Show-Baltimore, Kitzmiller said. That show, presented by the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, will run Feb. 6-9 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

“All of the manufacturers are back at the show,” Kitzmiller said. “In recent years, some haven’t been able to make it.”

Among the new models being exhibited will be 2015 pre-production models of the Ford Mustang, Cadillac Escalade and Chevrolet Suburban.