The traditional spring new-car buying spree, which has been absent in Maryland in recent years, showed signs of returning last month as dealers posted a 14.5 percent gain in vehicle sales.
"It was a pleasant surprise," John Fratta, general manager of Ernie Swanson Oldsmobile in Glen Burnie, said of the sales gain. Speaking for his dealership and others, he added: "We saw signs that the traditional spring market is coming back."
"People are feeling better about the economy. It seems like they have accepted their lot in life," Fratta said. "They no longer anticipate boom times, but they don't think the economy is going to get worse."
Maryland dealers sold 23,867 cars and trucks last month, according to registration figures released by the state Motor Vehicle Administration. This compares with vehicle sales of 20,853 in the same period last year.
The strong March sales were not enough, however, to offset lower deliveries in January and February, and total sales for the first quarter were 0.7 percent lower than during the first three months of 1996.
State dealers fared much better than their counterparts across the country last month. For the nation as a whole, sales of new cars and light trucks were up only 1.4 percent, according to Automotive News, an industry trade publication.
For the first three months of year, national sales were up 0.07 percent.
The best-selling car in the country last month was the newly redesigned Toyota Camry, according to Automotive News.
Toyota sold 105,383 Camrys during the period. It was the only car to sell more than 100,000 units.
The Chevrolet Cavalier was the top-selling domestic model, with sales of 91,189.
Ford's Taurus, benefiting from rebates ranging from $1,000 to $2,000, was third, followed by the Honda Accord and the Honda Civic.
The best selling vehicle was Ford's F-series pickup truck. Ford sold more than 183,000 of its F-series trucks last month.
The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration does not report sales of individual models.
The average price for new cars in Maryland was $20,596. This was $614 below the average price of new cars sold in February.
March sales of used cars jumped 20.5 percent, the MVA said. Sales totaled 46,535 last month, compared with 38,614 in March 1996. The average used-car price was $6,078.
Pub Date: 4/26/97