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Back in the driver’s seat: auto sales increase (access required)

By Hannah Mitchell One of the most beleaguered sectors in the recession, new vehicle sales are enjoying a recent boost from more optimistic buyers. In the first quarter, local auto dealers say their business has increased by as much as 40 percent as people buy vehicles after putting off such a major purchase during the downturn. Incentives are helping to fuel the upsurge. Statewide, the estimated 625 dealerships that survived the recession combined to sell nearly 29,000 new vehicles in March, 49 percent over February and the best month for the industry since October 2008. The uptick surpasses even the gains resulting from the federal Cash for Clunkers economic-stimulus incentive last fall, which gave people up to $4,500 off some new vehicles when they traded in old models. At Charlotte’s Young Ford, a $5,000 rebate or zero-percent financing offered since January on new vehicle purchases has helped bring in an estimated 40 percent more traffic, said Darnell Barrow, the dealership’s Internet sales manager.

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