Colorado new vehicle registrations declined last year after two years of gains but still accounted for the state’s fourth highest annual total, according to data from the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.
The 201,713 new vehicles registered in 2019 was down 2.8% from 2018, a slightly smaller drop than the 2.9% decrease in the new vehicle market nationwide. The statewide and nationwide declines resulted from a large drop in passenger car registrations that more than offset a small increase in light truck and sport utility vehicle registrations.
“Colorado’s new vehicle registrations in 2019 continue to track the national deceleration in vehicle sales. Light truck demand and luxury brands stayed positive, while compact cars and large cars showed the biggest declines,” Tim Jackson, president of the dealer trade group, said in a news release. Industry analysts cited higher interest rates on auto loans and rising vehicle prices as triggering the nationwide decline.
In El Paso County, new vehicle registrations in 2019 dropped 12.1% from 2018, when a pair of major summer hailstorms inflated vehicle sales, according to data provided to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum by Colorado Interactive. The 2019 tally was the lowest annual total since 2013, though the numbers before 2018 come from a different source.
“Last year was a very good year, especially relative to a normal year that wasn’t helped by hail. It was nearly as good as 2018 if you back out the hailstorms that accounted for about 20% of the increase in sales,” said Kevin Shaughnessy, vice president of operations for Phil Long Dealerships, southern Colorado’s largest vehicle retailer.
The statewide and El Paso County new vehicle markets ended the year on a weak note. Local registrations were down 19% in December to 2,445, while statewide registrations were off 2% in December to 17,887.
Shaughnessy said Phil Long started 2020 on a strong note with a 25% increase in January from January 2019, with dealers across the city benefiting from good weather and a strong local economy.
Colorado car dealers made up for declining new vehicle sales last year by selling more used cars and trucks. Used vehicle registrations rose every month in 2019 through August before declining in September and again in November. The total for the first 11 months of the year was up 5.7% from the same period in 2018 to 266,331.
Registrations tend to lag sales by up to two months, since buyers have up to 60 days to register a new vehicle. The data include only retail registrations; fleet transactions are excluded.