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ATLANTA — Sharing some positive news, AutoTrader.com president and chief executive officer Chip Perry said he connects the increased activity his site witnessed in March on used full-size trucks as an indication of an upward turning economy.

More specifically, Perry indicated that growth in used inventory searches for the Dodge Ram 2500 and Ford F-250 were up by about 20 percent as compared to March of 2009.

Meanwhile, used-inventory searches on the site for the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 also posted a strong jump, up about 18 percent year-over-year.

"This improvement we have seen in views for work trucks is a good harbinger of improvements to the economy at large," Perry asserted.

"These vehicles' popularity is a direct reflection of rebounding activity in the business and industrial segments, which in turn points towards increased spending among general consumers," he continued. "We expect this trend to soon be reflected in increased activity not just for work trucks, but also popular family vehicles such as midsize sedans and crossovers."

In further discussion about used-vehicle site traffic, Perry revealed that searches for certified pre-owned vehicles were down slightly year-over-year during March. He determined that the drop-off stemmed from depleted inventories in the category.

As a result, AutoTrader.com analysts also found that reduced inventory of CPO vehicles continued to push average asking prices higher, especially among foreign and domestic trucks, SUVs and crossovers. One example they shared was the average asking price for a certified GMC Sierra 1500 rose 15 percent to $24,541. They also noted that the average asking price for a Honda Pilot climbed 14 percent to $24,668.

"Manufacturers and dealers spent a lot of time and money explaining to consumers the benefits of CPO vehicles," Perry noted.

"And just as consumers were responding, leasing — a key supply avenue for CPO vehicles — dried up with the credit crunch," he went on to say. "With leasing beginning to see new signs of life, the supply of CPO vehicles should improve over time and many consumers will again give this segment a look."

New-Vehicle Search Trends

The Chevrolet Camaro once again was the most-viewed new vehicle on AutoTrader.com in March. Meanwhile, Hyundai's new Sonata midsize sedan was the most-viewed new vehicle in its class for the first time ever, surpassing competitors that include Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima, according to site officials.

Other big gains in new-vehicle searches on the site were for pair of compact crossovers.

AutoTrader.com found that views for the Chevrolet Equinox spiked 186 percent in March on a year-over-year comparison, making it the most-viewed new unit in its class and the eighth most-viewed new vehicle, overall.

Meanwhile, the site determined that a direct competitor of the Equinox, the Kia Sorento had a year-over-year view jump in March of an astounding 268 percent. Analysts indicated that the dramatic increase pushed the Sorento to the second most-viewed compact crossover and the 20th overall among all vehicles.

"As the Camaro, Equinox, Sorento and Sonata all prove, hot new designs still are capable of drawing shopper attention online and in showrooms," Perry emphasized.

"With most major automakers planning lots of new product to roll out during the course of 2010, consumers will have a lot to be excited about at their local dealership this year," he continued.

AutoTrader.com also noted that the average asking prices for new vehicles continued to creep up in March. The site believes it's a signal of better management of production in relation to demand than what was seen in 2009.

However, analysts pointed out that price increases were offset by manufacturer incentives which helped drive shoppers to dealers. They said March was the best month for new-vehicle sales so far in 2010.

AutoTrader.com Enjoys Record Traffic in March

For the month, site officials logged 16.5 million unique monthly visitors, setting a new company record. The previous high mark came in March 2009, but last month's total surpassed the previous record by almost 500,000 visitors.

"Heavy marketing of autos and auto incentives, coupled with the recovering economy, helped raise consumer interest in making a new or used vehicle purchase, driving them online to research and compare models in their efforts to find the perfect car at the right price," AutoTrader.com officials explained.

"AutoTrader.com's own extensive marketing efforts, including strong presence on networks including MTV, VH1 and Lifetime and displays at the United States largest auto shows over the past few months helped lead those shoppers to AutoTrader.com in record numbers," they added.

More Discussion about Future Trends

Finally, Perry offered some projections about how the auto industry might behave as the rest of the year unfolds.

"With the U.S. auto show season coming to a close with the New York International Auto Show this month and manufacturers getting ready to put into showrooms a variety of new vehicles, it will be interesting to see what cars become popular on our site and in sales over the next eight to 10 months," Perry stated.

He went on to mention that consumer interest at auto shows in small, stylish and fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Ford Fiesta, the Mazda 2, the Chevrolet Cruze and the Fiat-Chrysler 500 should be an indicator of what shoppers might demand.

"As a result of gas prices starting to creep up a bit and people more than ever aware of the environment, we will be keeping an eye on how these new small cars fare in the market when they do become available in dealer showrooms," Perry concluded.