Spurred by model-year-end clearance sales, Maryland motorists went on a mini spending spree last month that boosted new-car sales in the state by 7.3 percent, according to figures released yesterday by the Motor Vehicle Administration.
Dealers sold 24,312 new vehicles last month, according to title figures compiled by the MVA, up from 22,654 in the same period last year.
Used cars during the month proved nearly twice as popular as new cars. According to the state figures, used-car sales totaled 40,870, compared with 38,216 in the same period last year.
"We're not ready to say things have turned around," said John Sophocles, sales manager at Jerry's Chevrolet.
He said a big part of the business activity last month came from bargain-hunters looking for year-end specials as dealers and manufacturers cut prices to move 1992 models.
"A lot of what we're seeing," he said, "is what we call the need buyers" -- motorists who fear that their old jalopy won't make it through the winter.
John Fratta, general sales manager at Lee Oldsmobile in Glen Burnie, said business has been steady but not nearly at the pace of this time last year, when the dealership was the top-selling Oldsmobile outlet in the country.