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Auto sales remain strong

March 2, 2019 GMT

Most measures of consumer attitudes have reached 18-year highs over the past few months, according to a representative of the Pennsylvania Automotive Association. There are some risks, but strong economic growth combined with upbeat consumers should be enough to keep car sales strong.

“That said, after several years of hovering near zero, interest rates are on the rise,” said Melanie Stine, spokeswoman for the organization. “It’s not going to be an abrupt, upward march, but borrowing costs are almost certain to increase over the next 12 to 18 months. Consequently, higher interest rates lead to increased monthly finance and lease payments, which may put a slight drag on new vehicle sales.”

Stine said that auto sales have been consistently strong in recent years. Sales have been above 17 million units — cars and light trucks — for four straight years after falling to 10.4 million in 2009 during the Great Recession. Pennsylvania historically tracks in line with, or slightly above, reported national sales percentage increases, she said.

Sales figures specific to Somerset County were unavailable.

“Motivation to upgrade to new technologies, robust consumer confidence and a strong labor market have led to an uptick in auto sales the past few years,” she said.

A number of employees and owners of local automobile dealerships said that business is booming as of late. Chris Maurer, of BJ Maurer Motor Co. in Boswell, said he doesn’t see sales decreasing in the near future.

“We continue to grow and our success has been driven by our customers,” he said. “They are the foundation to our dealership.”

Dave Varner, owner of Varner Auto Sales in Davidsville, said that he doesn’t see any bad times ahead despite some forecasts for a slowdown nationally and locally.

“People need cars. So they have no choice,” he said. “What are you going to do? Walk? You don’t have a choice. You need one. Especially out here.”