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O.C.’s auto market continues to gain traction

New-car sales surge 19.7 percent during the first half of the year.

BY KARLY BARKERPublished: July 25, 2011 07:00 AM

Orange County’s auto market surged 19.7 percent during the first half of the year, as 61,708 new cars rolled off the lots. Experts at the Orange County Automobile Dealers Association (OCADA) predict new-car sales in 2011 will be the highest since 2008. However, the 10.6 percent growth in the second quarter seems slim compared to the soaring 30 percent during the first quarter.

“Inventory shortages resulting from the Japanese earthquake, a slowly growing economy and higher fuel prices combined to ease the pace of the new-vehicle sales recovery,” according to the OCADA’s publication, Auto Outlook.

Yet, the company still expects that sales will continue to increase, despite recent trauma to the market. Projections by the OCADA indicate that 62,000 units are expected to be sold during the second half of the year, a 13.2 percent jump over the second half of 2010.

 “A lot has happened during the first part of the year, but Auto Outlook’s forecast has remained pretty much on track,” the OCADA report stated.

The OCADA expects that the pent-up demand from several years of delayed purchases during the sales downturn between 2008 and 2010 will continue to be the driving force for the market over the next couple of years.

“The stubbornly weak labor market, elevated household debt levels and the moribund housing market will likely restrict, but not prevent, the continued new-vehicle sales recovery,” according to the OCADA study.

Orange County carmakers KIA and Hyundai were among the list of automakers whose new products fueled some of the sales gains.

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