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MONTVALE, N.J.  — Certified pre-owned sales during March showed a year-over-year increase for the first time since January 2009, and several automakers posted record sales.

Specifically, there were 145,157 certified units sold, a 7.3-percent increase over March 2009, according to Autodata Corp. statistics.

This upswing ended a string of 13 consecutive months of year-over-year sales declines.

And although year-to-date sales through March (369,239 units) were still down 8.4 percent from last year's pace, March proved to be quite promising for the market with some brands reporting all-time CPO highs or record March sales.

Mercedes-Benz, for example, had record CPO sales of 7,797 units, which was up almost 18 percent year-over-year. So far in 2010, it has moved 20,179 units, a 5.3-percent upswing.

"March was the best CPO month ever at Mercedes-Benz," stated Scott Penza, manager of pre-owned operations for Mercedes-Benz USA. "With strong support from our dealer partners, MBCPO was able to exceed last year's sales by 17.9 percent and set a new standard of sales in a single month.

"This is a great achievement for our company and we are very happy with the March result," he added.

Nissan North America recorded CPO sales of 8,726 units during March, a record for the most certified vehicles it has sold in any month and roughly 15.2 percent stronger than the year-ago period.

Through the first three months of 2010, Nissan has moved 22,131 units, compared with 20,437 at this point last year.

The Nissan division achieved best-ever sales, as well, with 7,563 certified vehicles sold, representing more than a 17.8-percent increase over March 2009. 

Meanwhile, Infiniti division's CPO sales of 1,163 units were the brand's second-best of all time, just 17 vehicles shy of the record set in August 2008 and up 0.4 percent year-over-year.

Another luxury brand also enjoyed its second-best CPO month, as BMW recorded 11,655 certified sales, just 64 vehicles behind its No. 1 mark. Through March, BMW's certified sales have totaled 27,567 units, which is down 3.8 percent from last year's pace.

"March was a great month for both BMW CPO and total BMW pre-owned as the spring selling season kicked in," commented Joan Horst, pre-owned marketing manager for BMW of North America.

"The BMW Financial Services offer of zero-percent maintenance on specific models continued from February in March, and dealers are seeing interest from consumers on the program," she added. "The www.bmwusa.com/cpo Web site traffic saw an uptick, which is a good indicator of positive activity in the vehicle purchase cycle."  

Continuing on, Lexus saw CPO sales hit 5,665 vehicles, which was its best-ever March and a 15.7-percent increase from a year ago when Lexus set its previous March record of 4,897 CPO units sold. So far in 2010, Lexus moved 15,353 certified vehicles, a gain of 16 percent.

Toyota sold 26,288 CPO vehicles during March, an 18.4-percent improvement from year-ago figures and the fourth-best certified sales month for the brand. Through the first three months of the year, Toyota has recorded 64,293 certified sales, an increase of 2.5 percent from the same period of 2009.

"Both Gulf States Toyota and Central Atlantic Toyota set new records all time best-ever months, selling 3,164 and 3,067 certified (vehicles) respectively," shared Norm Olson, sales operations manager for Toyota Motors Sales USA. "Our inventory build (certifications) also set an all time record which puts us in an excellent position for April.    

"We have strong momentum, special APR incentives and both very positive dealer and consumer attitudes," Olson continued. "With March and April consumer traffic at an all time high, Toyota Certified is on track to set another record in April."

Over at Volkswagen, dealers sold 4,501 certified vehicles during the month, a 10.3-percent improvement from March 2009. Year-to-date sales stand at 10,216 units, down 11.1.

"Our inventory availability improved in March and that showed in the sales results. Our dealers and field staff continue to do an excellent job for us promoting the program," explained Rob Martin, CPO manager for VW Sales Operation.

"We continue to see dealers in our network that have not previously been engaged in certified pre-owned getting on board and adding to our success," he continued.

Audi sold 2,551 certified vehicles during the month, down from 2,847 in March 2009. So far in 2010, the automaker moved 6,035 CPO units, compared to 7,910 through the first three months of last year.

Among domestic automakers, Ford sold 12,722 CPO units, a 1.5-percent increase over March 2009. Year-to-date sales are down 12.9 percent with 33,856 units sold.

By brand, Lincoln Mercury moved 1,916 units, a 4.1-percent upswing, while Ford's CPO sales reached 10,806 units, a 1.1-percent uptick.

"The certified pre-owned value message continues to resonate with consumers and dealers in this recovering economy," shared Glenn Burke, Ford's CPO manager. "We continue to work with dealers on executing our comprehensive certified plan.  We look forward to continued year-over-year improvements."

Chrysler also reported a year-over-year increase, with 9,741 certified vehicles sold, an 8.8-percent improvement over a year ago. CPO sales through March (24,321 units) were down 10.6 percent from the same period of 2009.

Breaking it down, Jeep was up 22.2 percent with certified sales of 3,021 units, while Dodge moved 3,998 CPO vehicles, a 7.1-percent upswing. Chrysler's CPO sales fell 0.9 percent to 2,722 units.

Next up was General Motors, whose certified brands combined to sell 27,232 vehicles in March, a 15.8-percent decrease compared to 32,351 units a year ago. So far this year, sales have totaled 71,919 vehicles, down from 103,644 units a year ago.

Officials emphasized that Saab has moved out of the company as of Feb. 24, thus Saab's numbers were not included in its monthly or year-to-date data for the March 2010 and March 2009 periods.

They also noted that Saturn became part of GM Certified Used Vehicles on Feb. 7. Furthermore, Oldsmobile's CPO sales halted at the end of September due to vehicles' age excluding them from the program.

With that in mind, GM Certified Used Vehicles' sales for March — which include Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, Pontiac and Saturn — were 24,532 units. The March 2009 GM Certified Used Vehicles sales total — including Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn — was 28,973. 

Meanwhile, Cadillac sold 2,558 CPO units in March, down 18.6 percent year-over-year. Hummer moved 142 certified vehicles, compared to 235 units a year ago.

Continuing on, Honda moved 16,781 CPO vehicles during March, a 27.4-percent increase over last year. Year-to-date sales have reached 43,924 units, a 14.7-percent climb. Acura, meanwhile, achieved certified sales of 3,681 units during the month, a 4.1-percent rise over the year-ago period.

Through March, Acura's CPO sales have reached 9,293 units, which is off 8.1 percent from last year's pace.

Volvo recorded CPO sales of 1,632 units, down from 1,912 vehicles a year ago. Year-to-date sales have reached 4,398 vehicles, compared to 6,176 units through the same point of 2009.

Certified sales for Hyundai hit 1,757 units during, up 50 percent from March 2009. So far in 2010, Hyundai has moved 3,972 certified units, a 32.2-percent upswing from the year-ago pace.

Subaru's CPO sales totaled 1,600 during March, compared to 1,100 last year. Certified sales through March have reached 4,185 vehicles, up 24.9 percent from the prior-year period.

Among other automakers, Kia sold 569 certified vehicles during March, compared to 323 vehicles last March.

Mazda moved 483 certified units, up from 428 CPO vehicles in March 2009.

Porsche recorded CPO sales of 704 vehicles, a 33.6-percent upswing.

Certified sales for Jaguar were 297 units, down from 493 vehicles last year. Land Rover sold 263 CPO vehicles, compared to 579 in March 2009.

Saab sold 223 CPO units during March, compared to 436 vehicles in the same time frame of 2009.

Mini's CPO sales reached 206 units, up from 172 vehicles in the same period a year ago.

Bentley was estimated to have sold 30 CPO units, down slightly from an estimated 33 in the prior-year period. Mitsubishi's certified sales were estimated at 35 vehicles, down from an estimated 75 in March 2009.

Finally, Maserati sold 19 certified vehicles during the month. It had not yet begun reporting CPO data in March 2009.