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Lindley Estes is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Lindley Estes.

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March was strong month for local auto sales

More new vehicles were registered in the Fredericksburg area in March than any month since June 2008, according to data released this week by the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association.

There were 1,503 new vehicles registered in March locally — Fredericksburg and Caroline, King George, Stafford and Spotsylvania counties. That was up 38.5 percent year-over-year and surpassed even the tallies from the federal government’s “Cash For Clunkers” program in mid-2009 during the depths of the recession.

New vehicle registrations have now risen year-over-year in the Fredericksburg area for eight-straight months and 16 of the past 17 months (July 2011 being the exception).

Just because a new vehicle was registered in the Fredericksburg area doesn’t mean it was purchased locally. But new vehicle registrations are considered a good indicator of local sales activity.

Indeed, area automotive dealerships confirmed that March was an excellent month for sales of both cars that get better miles per gallon as well as larger vehicles.

“It appears consumer confidence is rising within the market area,” said Jonathan Pittman, general manager of the Radley Chevrolet and Cadillac dealerships along U.S. 1 near the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania line.

“We hope this is a precursor of things to come for this year,” said Clay Huber, president of the Rosner Auto Group, which has several area dealerships selling brands including Toyota, Nissan, Scion, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz.

March sales continued what has started out as a strong year, said Tim Pohanka, general manager of the Nissan and Hyundai dealerships in Spotsylvania’s Four-Mile Fork area.

The Fredericksburg area mirrors a nationwide rebounding of the automotive market following a rough few years. New vehicle registrations rose about 34.3 percent statewide in March, according to VADA data. That’s better than the performance of the nation as a whole.

VADA spokesman Michael Allen said key factors for the recovery include pent-up demand due to an aging consumer fleet, growing consumer confidence, an improving job market, low interest rates and the increasing availability of consumer credit.

“You have the makings of the first really good year for the industry in a while,” Allen said.

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