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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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Truck sales show area economy better, not great

It’s said that pickup truck sales are a good economic indicator, as construction-related companies buy the vehicles when business picks up.

If that is the case, the Fredericksburg-area economy appears to have improved over the lows of the recession. Yet activity is still far from what was seen during the housing boom.

Through June there had been 844 new trucks registered with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles in the Fredericksburg area, according to data provided by the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association (VADA). That tally was about even with the year-to-date figure in 2011 but was up about 18 percent from 2009, when the stock market bottomed and the recession was perhaps most severe.

Still, new truck registrations in the Fredericksburg region through June were down about 13.5 percent from 2008, before the worst of the recession hit. Truck sales were even more robust in the years prior to 2008.

The Fredericksburg area comprises the city and Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties.

The regional figures closely track those of the state as a whole, VADA data show. New truck registrations through June in Virginia were up about 21.6 percent from 2009 but down about 10 percent from 2008.

Nationwide it’s the same story, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler reported gains in full-size pickup sales through the first half of the year and are hopeful that recent signs of increased new home construction, as well as an aging fleet of vehicles, could lead to more people buying trucks.

CarMax Inc. reported this week that the Ford F-150 pickup was the most searched-for vehicle on the company’s website in June. The Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Silverado 1500 trucks also made the top 10.

It may not be only contractors driving the trend. Dave Eadie, who is general sales manager at the Purvis Ford and Lincoln dealerships near the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania County line on U.S. 1, said many families are buying trucks due to their improved technology, fuel efficiency and power.

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