published Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Auto sales motor ahead

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Brent Morgan

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    Staff Photo by John Rawlston A salesman at Economy Honda talks with a customer.

NEW AUTOS TITLED 2010

Hamilton County

January -- 736

February -- 593

March -- 874

April -- 900

May -- 834

Total -- 3,937

New auto sales in Hamilton County have raced ahead of last year's mark through May as a recovery in the industry sets in, according to officials.

"We expect 2010 to continue to get better," said Brent Morgan, dealer/operator for Integrity Buick GMC Cadillac in Chattanooga. "We're bullish on the direction of the auto industry."

Registrations of new cars and trucks rose 32.1 percent in the first five months of the year compared to the same period in 2009, according to the Hamilton County Clerk's Office.

For May alone, registrations powered up 44 percent in the month over a year ago, figures show. Registrations closely relate to sales.

Mr. Morgan said Integrity finished May at over 200 percent of its sales objective for General Motors in the month.

"We're very pleased with the response we're getting from the marketplace," he said.

Sandy Pursley of Larry Hill Ford in Cleveland, Tenn., said he thinks the rebound in sales will continue.

"Ford has taken leaps and bounds," he said. "If we keep working hard, we'll reap the reward."

Ed Emerson, sales manager at Capital Toyota, said the car business is turning around.

"Consumer confidence seems to be greater than in the past two years," he said. "We're seeing a lot of positives out there."

Clay Watson, president of Mountain View Ford, said the business is definitely headed in the right direction.

"There's a lot of pent-up demand," he said.

Major auto companies with a presence in Tennessee also are seeing sales move higher.

Volkswagen's global sales rose 8.6 percent in May over a year ago.

The automaker sold 604,200 vehicles in the month compared to 556,500 a year ago.

Through May, it sold 2.94 vehicles, up 18.1 percent, the car maker reported.

In the U.S., where the German automaker is building a Chattanooga plant, VW said it had "gratifyingly high growth" over the five months, up 33.5 percent in the period.

"Volkswagen is currently reaping greater than average benefits from very good demand on important markets such as China and the USA," said Christian Klingler, the group board member for sales.

Nissan Motor Co. also reported that improving consumer confidence helped sustain a recovery in demand.

Nissan, Japan's third-largest automaker with a production plant in Smyrna, Tenn., reported a 24 percent increase in May from a year earlier.

Nissan reported sales of 83,764 Nissan and Infiniti vehicles, an increase from 67,489. The company reported gains were led by the Altima sedan, Cube wagon, Sentra and Versa small cars and compact Rogue crossover.

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about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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