Hamilton County auto sales rise 35%

Hamilton County auto sales rise 35%

November 3rd, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

New Passats await shipment at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

VEHICLES TITLED

New vehicle registrations for October in Hamilton County:

* 2012 - 1,116

* 2011 - 827

* 2010 - 753

* 2009 - 570

* 2008 - 714

* 2007 - 1,856

Source: Hamilton County Clerk's Office

Kristina Rice, of Chattanooga, bought a new Volks-wagen Passat recently in part because she liked the idea it was locally made at the VW assembly plant.

She also said she feels OK about her job situation and believes the economy is starting to uptick.

"It's getting better," Rice said.

A big jump in the number of new cars and trucks titled in Hamilton County last month may bear that out. New vehicle sales soared about 35 percent over a year ago, according to the Hamilton County Clerk's Office.

Through October, sales of new vehicles in Hamilton County are 17. 1 percent higher this year than in the same period a year ago.

Still, not everyone is ready to buy.

Nick Walter said on Friday that he's not in the market for a new vehicle and doesn't want to go into debt again to buy another vehicle.

"I'm happy with no car payment," he said.

Jonathan Browning, Volkswagen Group of America's chief executive, said Thursday in a conference call with analysts that he's still "somewhat cautious" about the U.S. auto market.

"It's not yet a full-blown recovery," he said.

Hamilton County figures may back that up. Last month's new vehicle registrations still lag sales prior to the Great Recession. For example, October 2007 registrations were nearly 40 percent higher than last month, figures show.

Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Michelle Krebs said that while Chrysler's sales last month were up 10 percent nationally, she's not seeing "eye-popping year-over-year percentage increases we saw a year ago."

Krebs said in an email that October wasn't a stellar month for Ford, which saw flat sales compared to last year.

October sales generally were hindered by superstorm Sandy in the Northeast, according to analysts. But October still closed roughly 8 percent above October 2011.