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January new-vehicle titles a record 12,703

By David Smith

This article was published March 14, 2014 at 2:37 a.m.

A record 12,703 new vehicles were registered in Arkansas in January, a 26 percent improvement over January last year, said Cross-Sell of Lexington, Ky., an automotive research firm.

The registrations were the highest one-month total since Cross-Sell began providing statistics in 2008. The previous high was 11,273 titles in October last year.

The jump in titles is a continuation of a trend.

Registrations have risen for 32 of the past 40 months when compared with the same month of the previous year. In three of the past four months of registration reports, there have been more than 10,000 vehicles titled in the state.

“That’s a pretty good sign that the market is continuing to increase,” Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said Thursday.

Nationally, auto sales totaled slightly more than 1 million in January, down 3.1 percent from January last year, according to Autodata Corp.

Frank Fletcher Dodge Chrysler Jeep had its best December sales ever, said Tom Roy, chief financial officer for Frank Fletcher Auto Group. The group has five dealerships in Arkansas and seven in Missouri.

Those December sales would have translated into January registrations. That’s because Arkansas law gives auto buyers up to 30 days to register vehicles after making the purchase. So January titles are indicative of sales in December.

Chevrolet was the top make of new vehicles registered in January with 1,991titles, 15.7 percent of the market.

Ford was next with 1,933 titles, 15.2 percent of the market.

Full-size pickups accounted for almost 26 percent of titles, easily outdistancing midsize cars, which accounted for 15.3 percent of titles.

The prevalence of pickups in Arkansas is growing faster than the overall market, Pakko said.

The top four pickup brands registered in January - Ford F-series trucks as well as Chevrolet, GMC and Dodge Ram full-size pickups - increased by about 30 percent compared with January last year, better than the overall 26 percent growth, Pakko noted.

Since pickups are more likely to be used for work, the strong increase in titles could indicate that the state is seeing increased confidence by small businesses, Pakko said.

Another reason for improved pickup registrations in January - and sales in December - is because many businesses had a good 2013 and may have decided to buy a truck in December to use as a tax writeoff, Roy said.

There were 17,658 used vehicles registered in Arkansas in January, up 42.5 percent from 12,392 titled in January last year.

Another 34,749 vehicles were titled after private-party transactions, an increase of 68.9 percent compared with the 20,579 in January last year.

The number of autos sold in Arkansas each month is not available from the state unless a substantial fee is paid to cover agency expenses, the Office of Motor Vehicle says.

Business, Pages 29 on 03/14/2014

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