For some car dealerships in Frederick County, 2012 was a pretty good year for sales of both used and new vehicles, leading them to be optimistic that this year will be even better.
Both Fitzgerald Auto Mall on Baughman’s Lane in Frederick and Darcars Toyota of Frederick on Buckeystown Pike saw sales of used and new cars increase in 2012 from 2011, with business this month better than this past January, according to managers.
“We were up 15 percent in 2012 over 2011, and so far this January, we will probably be up 13 percent over last January,” said Jason Waltrup, general manager of Darcars Toyota.
Waltrup credits low interest rates and a better economy as the key reasons contributing to their increase in sales.
Waltrup said his top-selling models include the Toyota Tundra, Camry and the Corolla.
The Toyota Corolla was the top-selling subcompact car in 2012, according to the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, a statewide association of new car and truck dealers. The Toyota Camry was the best-selling standard midsize car.
At Fitzgerald Auto Mall, sales of used cars were up 30 percent this month from January 2012, officials said. In January of this past year, the dealership sold 66 used cars. As of Friday, they had sold 80.
“We are seeing sales shift toward the used cars,” said June Rutkay, inventory manager. “I think it’s the (lower) prices.”
Sales of their new vehicles were also up 5 percent from January 2012, she said.
“We are absolutely hoping sales will continue to be up,” Rutkay said.
Increased auto sales in Frederick County mirror statewide sales that were up 10 percent in 2012 from 2011, greater than the 7 percent year-over-year rise in 2011, according to new figures from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.
As in 2011, used-car sales were about the same as in 2012.
Pent-up demand and looser financing are two key factors for the rise, said Peter Kitzmiller, president of the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association.
“The problem we had with buyers getting financing from late 2007 through at least 2009 is pretty much not a problem anymore,” Kitzmiller said. “Then, a lot of people are back in the market. Demand is up. ... We’re starting to get things back on track, though we’re not near where we were in 2006.”
The nearly 290,000 new cars and light trucks sold in the state this past year were about 110,000 fewer than sold in 2006. The 628,000 used vehicles sold statewide was about 70,000 below the 2006 level.
But the average new-car purchase price this past year — $29,312 — was up 12 percent from the 2006 average, while the average used price of $8,893 was 6 percent higher than 2006. Those rises stem mostly from inflation, Kitzmiller said.
Meanwhile, the state dealers association, which called 2012 a “pretty good year” for new car sales, predicts slower growth of 5.4 percent this year.
“New vehicle sales are likely to increase again this year, but the percentage gain is mostly certain to fall short of the gain in 2012,” the association said in its recent publication of the “Maryland Auto Outlook.”
The association sites three primary reasons for the slip in sales.
The first, is that the labor market is still on the mend, with too many Marylanders still searching for work. Maryland’s unemployment rate is 6.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Frederick County’s unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in December — the most recent month for which data was available — up from 5.3 percent in November. Frederick city’s unemployment rate was 6 percent in December, up from 5.7 percent in November.
Other reasons for the slip in sales include high consumer debt and predictions the federal government will be forced to raise taxes and cut spending to lower the national debt.
“The good news is that there are currently more positive market determinants than the negative ones mentioned above,” the association said. “The two primary factors that will almost certainly lead to an increase in sales this year are pent up demand and vehicle affordability.”
Staff Writer Kevin James Shay contributed to this story.