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Colorado new-car registrations run into a ditch

Steve Raabe
The Denver Post

Colorado new-car registrations plunged 41 percent in the first half of the year, the worst decline ever.

Car and truck registrations through June totaled 46,424, compared with 79,192 in the same period last year, according to a report released Friday by the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.

“This was a dramatic drop in new-vehicle registrations. It exceeded even the (35 percent) drop in national sales,” said Tim Jackson, president of the association.



But the worst may be over, he said.

Forecasts by automotive economists and anecdotal reports from dealers suggest sales will begin recovering in the second half of the year and rise an estimated 15 percent in 2010.



Still, the projected 98,524 registrations through the end of 2009 would represent a 32 percent decline from 2008 and a continuation of a decade-long downward spiral.

Jackson said plunging sales result from a combination of factors, including the housing slump, auto manufacturer bankruptcies, high unemployment and tight credit.

The problem is compounded by a long-term trend toward better-made cars, allowing owners to keep their vehicles longer before considering trade-ins.



“The quality of new cars is so good that people buy them and basically can keep them for life,” Jackson said.

The auto dealers’ report is based on new-vehicle registrations from sales at dealerships that occurred about 60 days earlier.

Because of the time lag, Jackson said, the first-half report does not reflect initial indications that sales began rising in June and have continued to increase into July.

Dealers should benefit from the new federal Car Allowance Rebate System – informally known as “Cash for Clunkers” – which offers rebates of $3,500 to $4,500 to owners who trade-in qualifying gas guzzlers for new, higher-efficiency vehicles.

Trade-ins must be 1984 or newer models, insured and registered, with mileage ratings of 18 miles per gallon or less. New cars must have mileage ratings of at least four miles per gallon more than the trade-in.

Jackson said dealers expect demand for the $1 billion program to be strong enough that rebates will run out before the end of the incentive Nov. 1.

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948 or sraabe@denverpost.com


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