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New-vehicle titling jumps 38% in state

By David Smith

This article was published April 23, 2014 at 3:12 a.m.

The number of new vehicles registered in Arkansas jumped 38 percent in March to 9,573 compared with the same month last year, Cross-Sell of Lexington, Ky., said Tuesday.

There were 6,945 new vehicles registered in the state in March last year, said the Kentucky company, which provides automobile analysis reports.

Registrations were up 86percent in February and 26 percent in January.

“It would seem that there was more demand for auto sales than we thought,” said Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Nationally, new-vehicle sales were up 6 percent to 1.5 million in March, according to Autodata. The strong month was better than analysts had projected.

“Auto sales [in Arkansas] have been rising over the past couple of years,” Pakko said. “It appeared that the pace of sales was getting back to pre-recession levels. But this recent surge in demand suggests that there is even more strength there, possibly due to pent-up demand.”

Dennis Jungmeyer, president of the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association, agreed.

“The average age of vehicles on the road is still about 11 years,” Jungmeyer said.

A more typical average age for vehicles in the country is about seven or eight years, Jungmeyer said.

“So there are a lot of cars still in that 8- to 11-year-old category that are potential turnovers,” Jungmeyer said. “The quality of cars will continue to raise that average a little bit. You’re seeing dealerships holding on to cars now that they used to send to auction, cars in the $8,000 range or 10-yearold model. Now dealers are starting to keep those on the lot because they are popular with the public.”

Some late-model used cars and trucks are holding their value so well that they cost almost as much as a new vehicle, Jungmeyer said. Often, consumers only have to spend a few thousand dollars more to get a new vehicle, which contributes to more new-car sales, Jungmeyer said.

For the first quarter of the year, there were 34,584 vehicles registered, an increase of 46 percent compared with the first three months of 2013.

The state is on pace for almost 140,000 registrations this year.

“Traffic is good and attitudes are good, even with a little spike in gasoline prices,” Jungmeyer said. “It went from $3.15 [a gallon], I think, to about $3.45 now here in central Arkansas. People are tolerant. They have become accepting of price fluctuations. I think people are comfortable that it’s not going to get much higher.” Arkansas’ March registrations more closely correspond with sales in February because state law gives auto buyers up to 30 days to register vehicles after making the purchase.

There were 22,413 registrations for used vehicles after sales at dealerships, Cross-Sell said. That was up 54 percent from 14,547 in March last year.

Registrations after private party sales in the state totaled 35,513 in March, a 63 percent jump from 21,817 in March 2013.

The state Office of Motor Vehicle does not provide the number of autos sold in Arkansas each month unless a substantial fee is paid to cover its expenses, the agency said.

Business, Pages 25 on 04/23/2014

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