New vehicles titled in Hamilton County through July with percent increase over the same month in 2011:
January // 1,032 // 11.5%
February // 896 // 15.6%
March // 1,099 // 11.1%
April // 1,134 // 35.3%
May // 1,069 // 11.1%
June // 1,112 // 15.5%
July // 1,076 // 26.4%
Source: Hamilton County Clerk's Office
New cars and trucks titled in Hamilton County are on pace for the best year since 2008.
July registrations were up sharply from a year ago, county figures show, despite a 30-cent jump in gas prices the past five weeks.
New vehicles titled, which closely track sales, rose 26.4 percent in July versus the same month in 2011, according to the Hamilton County Clerk's Office.
"We had a very good July," said Dwight Morgan, general manager for Integrity Automotive Group in Chattanooga. "For the balance of the year, we see a gradual increase in sales."
Through July, new autos titled in the county are 17.2 percent higher than they were in first seven months of 2011. The county has registered 7,418 new vehicles so far compared to a total of 10,948 all of last year, figures show.
Claude Hyde, Capital Toyota's general sales manager, said people are feeling better about the economy, and the Japanese automaker has more inventory than last year when the tsunami hindered production.
He said sales of the newly redesigned Camry midsize sedan are "real good."
Still, the economy and gas prices are expected to play a big role concerning future car sales, some people said Tuesday.
Rick Bonner, of Soddy-Daisy, said that his health failed about the same time the economy did three or four years ago, and he's keeping his 1998 model vehicle.
"I'm not in the market," he said.
Mike Eldridge, of Chattanooga, said he will weigh gas prices the next time he looks at buying a new car.
"I'd like something with higher gas mileage," he said.
The Energy Information Administration reported Tuesday that the national average retail price of regular gasoline surged 13.7 cents a gallon to $3.64 a gallon, its highest since May, in the week ended Monday.
The rise was the biggest one-week increase in prices since May, 2009. The steep jump was likely from a series of refinery and pipeline issues that affected the gasoline market last week, Brian Milne, refined fuels editor at brokerage Telvent DTN, told MarketWatch.
While the rise was the fifth straight week of national price increases, gas prices are still 2.9 cents, or 0.8 percent, lower than they were a year ago, MarketWatch reported.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.