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Staff file photo / A salesman walks through a line of new Hondas at Economy Honda in Chattanooga.

Sales of new vehicles in Hamilton County rebounded sharply in June, up 27.7% from May, as automakers and dealers offered rich incentives and low interest rates.

New vehicles titled in June compared favorably from a year ago despite the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, down just 7.5%, according to the Hamilton County Clerk's office.

Brent Morgan, president of Integrity Automotive Group in Chattanooga, said that incentives such as "zero-percent money" has created favorable terms for consumers.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga auto dealers juggle sales, safety amid COVID-19 pandemic)

"We've had consistent practices when it comes to consumer care" during the coronavirus outbreak, he added. "Guests and customers have responded positively to that."

Still, auto sales in the county for the last three months were off 20% from the same period last year, figures show. But that figure is better than U.S. sales posted by automakers in the April to June time frame.

U.S. vehicle sales in the second quarter pf 2020 for General Motors, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler all fell by more than 30%. Experts predict overall U.S. sales of new vehicles for the quarter will fall about 34% from a year ago.

Volkswagen of America posted better numbers than most automakers in the quarter, with sales falling 29%.

Sales of the Chattanooga-made Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs fell in the period, down 25%, according to the automaker.

But sales of the Passat sedan, also built in Chattanooga, rose 11% compared to the same period a year ago, the company said.

The German carmaker, which employs about 3,800 people in Chattanooga, reported that SUVs were a record 60% of all sales in the quarter.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County auto sales better in May; still down 24% from year ago)

Year to date, Volkswagen of America reported sales of 145,008 vehicles were down 22% versus the first half of 2019.

Cox Automotive Senior Economist Charlie Chesbrough said first-half auto sales appear to be ending close to its forecast, down roughly 24% from year-ago levels.

"The vehicle market shouldn't expect things to change much during the next quarter. Potential shortages on some products, a second wave of COVID-19 cases, and continued high unemployment will make Q3 challenging," he said.

However, Chesbrough said the worst of the crisis in terms of sales impact is behind the industry.

"The question for the rest of the year is the pace of the recovery, not the direction," he said.

Morgan's Integrity group added a new nameplate in the second quarter with the addition of the Tim Short Mazda franchise in the city.

The auto dealer said he expects the sales rate for the Japanese car company to soar by 200% to 300% in the Chattanooga market.

"Mazda was under-represented in the marketplace," Morgan said. "There's a lot of opportunity for the Mazda brand."

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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