Vehicle sales best in 2 years

Vehicle sales best in 2 years

September 2nd, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

The number of new vehicles titled in Hamilton County jumped nearly 20 percent in August over a year ago to the highest monthly level in two years.

"We had a real strong close," said Thad Narramore of Marshal Mize Ford about August sales at the Highway 153 dealership.

New car and truck registrations hit 998 in August, the highest monthly mark since the federal government's cash for clunkers program in August 2009 when local dealers sold 1,009 new cars and trucks, according to the Hamilton County Clerk's Office.

Last month, the number of new trucks titled was the best in the county since September 2008.

Don Thomas, dealer-principal at Mountain View Nissan off Market Street, said new vehicle sales climbed 30 percent in August over a year ago.

"Nissan continues to come down the pipeline with fresh and good product, and good incentives," he said.

Interest rates remain historically low, and Thomas said people are feeling better about the economy. The metro Chattanooga jobless rate in July fell to 8.7 percent. That's below the national rate of 9.1 percent.

"Chattanooga is a little honey hole," Narramore said.

While county year-to-date new vehicle sales figures are up almost 15 percent along with August figures, buying still lags pre-recession levels. For example, August's new car and truck registrations in the county are about half what they were in the same month in 2007.

Also, some people in Chattanooga on Thursday said they're not ready to buy a car, citing the jobless rate.

Amy Gowan, of Philadelphia, in Chattanooga looking for work, said she is not in the market for a car.

"If I had the money, I probably buy a used one," she said at Northgate Mall.

Larry Strickler, of Chattanooga, said he bought a car in 2010, adding he was satisfied at the time about his personal finances and the U.S. economy. He's not in the market this year, he said.

Still, car buyers nationally shrugged off bad economic news and a major East Coast hurricane, lifting U.S. sales for most automakers, figures show.

General Motors, Chrysler, Ford and Nissan reported surprisingly strong sales results on Thursday, according to monthly sales reports. Toyota and Honda, however, continued to be hurt by model shortages from the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Both reported large sales drops.

Chrysler sales led the way in August with a 31 percent increase from a year earlier. GM's sales rose 18 percent, Nissan was up 19 percent and Ford reported an 11 percent increase. Toyota sales were off almost 13 percent, while Honda sales were down 24 percent.

Associated Press contributed to this report.