| -

CARMEL, Ind. — With retail demand healthy and supply being limited, dealers were once again aggressive when it came to bidding at the auction during March, and this helped push continued growth in wholesale prices, according to ADESA's Tom Kontos.

Specifically, the average wholesale price during March was $10,540, which marked a 6.8-percent year-over-year gain and a 4-percent sequential rise, ADESA shared.

"Wholesale used-vehicle prices maintained their growth pattern in March, as dealers continue to bid aggressively for available units needed to meet solid retail demand in the midst of tight supplies," Kontos explained.

The average wholesale car price was $9,434, a 5.7-percent upswing from March 2009, and auction prices for trucks averaged $11,867, a 9.2-percent year-over-year rise.

The price gains were quite consistent throughout various vehicle types. In fact, of the 13 car and truck segments included in ADESA's data, all but one — full-size cars, which were down 9 percent — saw their average wholesale prices increase from March 2009.

Full-size vans showed the largest increase from a year ago (26.1 percent), while full-size SUVs (up 12.3 percent) and full-size pickups (up 9.3 percent) had substantial gains, as well.

Leading the price gains among the car segments was the luxury car category, which climbed 7.6 percent, followed by sporty cars (up 6.9 percent) and midsize cars (up 4.6 percent).

"The rising tide has been lifting virtually all ships," Kontos pointed out. "Most model class segments have been moving in tandem with the market regardless of size or configuration."

Breaking it down by seller types, all groups showed stronger pricing during March.

Prices in manufacturer sales were up 4.2 percent from February and 13.5 percent from March 2009. There was a 5.4-percent month-over-month rise in fleet/lease consignment prices, which climbed 11.9 percent year-over-year.

Dealer consignment prices jumped 14.2 percent from the prior-year period and 7.7 percent from February.

Continuing on, auction inventory level was approximately 31 days at the end of March, according to ADESA Analytical Services. Comparatively, auction inventory level was at 44 days a year ago.

This points to "tight supply and high auction throughput."

Looking at the retail side of the used market, there was a 10.5-percent increase in used-vehicle sales, Kontos noted, citing CNW Research.

Franchised dealers saw a 3.5-percent rise in used sales, while independents enjoyed an 18.7-percent gain.

The new-vehicle market was also more vibrant in March, Kontos shared.

"Stronger new-vehicle sales recorded in March — both retail sales to consumers and fleet sales to rental companies and corporations — bode well for near-term and longer-term used-vehicle supply in the form of trade-ins and off-rental/fleet units," he explained. "In the meantime, institutional and dealer consignors can capitalize on strong selling prices in-lane and online at auction."

Finally, sharing Bureau of Labor Statistics information, Kontos pointed out that there was a 14.1-percent year-over-year uptick in the consumer price index for used vehicles in February, which was the latest data available.