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March New Vehicle Sales Best Since 2007

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author photo by Jeffrey Archer March 2012
  • March new car sales will likely top 1.4 million units
  • Consumer interest in new vehicles remains high
  • KBB says rising gas prices could slow down sales

New vehicle sales in March 2012 will likely top 1.4 million units, making this month the best March in five years. That's the latest from industry analytics firm Kelley Blue Book, who says this month's sales represent a 14 percent gain compared to March 2011.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the projected target of 1,425,000 new vehicle sales in March 2012 will make this month the strongest March since 2007, when sales topped 1.5 million units. It also represents a gain of nearly 25 percent compared to last month, and demonstrates a continued trend of increasing sales and economic recovery in the automotive industry.

"Conditions in the economy have generally been positive through the first few months of the year, and if conditions remain steady, the industry can expect to see continued strength in sales for the months ahead," said Alec Gutierrez, Kelley Blue Book's senior market analyst of automotive insights.

Indeed, Kelley Blue Book's quarterly Customer Sentiment Survey of in-market car shoppers found that a whopping 29 percent of shoppers complained about a small selection of vehicles, while 28 percent responded that they had difficulty finding the vehicle they wanted. The large number of car buyers complaining about availability - rather than the lack of financing options or the high price of new cars - proves shoppers are ready and willing to buy new vehicles - a major change from just two years ago.

But despite increased interest, Kelley Blue Book warns that automakers shouldn't break out the champagne and celebrate the economic recovery just yet. The company points out that rising gas prices could be a major force in upcoming automotive shopping decisions, and could influence buyers to cut back on their spending and even delay purchasing a new vehicle.

"Rising fuel prices could slow down the current momentum in sales growth if left unchecked, so this will be a key factor to monitor moving forward," cautioned Gutierrez, who noted that sales of subcompact vehicles like the Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta will remain strong even as gas prices increase. "Not only are they cost effective, but the subcompacts available for sale today are of significantly higher quality than those offered just a few years ago," he noted.

But whether it's a subcompact hatchback or a large pickup, Americans are increasingly demonstrating a desire for more new cars. And despite rising gas prices, it's likely that escalated interest - and a recovering economy - could lead to more big months ahead for automakers.

What it means to you: Although gas prices could slow things down, the automotive industry appears to be recovering from its recent slump.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
March New Vehicle Sales Best Since 2007 - Autotrader