Md. new car sales off 4.4% MVA reports even greater decline for used autos: 5.6%; Luxury models selling well; On national list, trucks, sport utilities still among leaders; Auto industry

New car sales, a barometer of Maryland's economic health, were off 4.4 percent last month, according to figures released yesterday by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

Used car deliveries fell even more sharply -- down 5.6 percent.


Consumers don't seem to have the new car fever even though prices have moderated with the introduction of the 1998 models, according to Robert C. Russel, president of R&H; Motor Cars Ltd. in Owings Mills and chairman of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, a trade group representing 320 new car dealers in the state.

"The situation is pretty much the same as it was in October," said Russel; "certain franchises are doing well and others are not."


He said luxury vehicles, such as Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Lincoln's new sport utility vehicle, the Navigator, are hot items. The models from Honda and Toyota also are selling well. But most others, Russel said, are lagging.

Based on its title registration figures, which equate to sales, the MVA said consumers bought 22,162 new vehicles last month. This compares with 23,186 during the same period last year.

The MVA reported total used-vehicle sales in November at 37,903 units. This compares with sales of 39,298 in November 1996.

Dealers had 18 selling days last month, the same as in November of 1996.

According to the MVA, the average price of a new car was $22,256 in November. This is $412 above the average price in October, which was up $401 over September's average price.

Russel said the rising price of the average new car is an indication that luxury cars are selling well.

In the hot-selling luxury segment, Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes and Porsche have already exceeded their 12-month totals for 1996, according to Automotive News, an industry trade publication.

Cadillac did not share in the good times. Its sales fell 9.4 percent last month.


National leaders

The top 10 selling vehicles in the country last month included four pickup trucks, two sport utility vehicles, three import cars and one domestic sedan.

Automotive News reported that the full-size Ford pickup was the sales leader, followed by its counterpart at Chevrolet.

The best selling car was the Honda Accord, followed by the Ford Explorer and another pickup from Dodge.

Ford's Taurus was the sixth best seller, ahead of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota Camry, Ford Ranger and Honda Civic.

Pub Date: 12/30/97