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Utah auto dealers posted the highest second-quarter sales increase in three years thanks to healthy car sales at Ford, Acura, Nissan and Toyota dealerships, and a strong performance by all makes of trucks, the Utah Tax Commission said.

Overall, total second-quarter new car and truck sales improved 12.9 percent, compared to the same period in 1988, while sales declined 3.1 percent nationwide."April, May and June helped us catch up on the first quarter, which wasn't very good," said Pres Kearsley, executive director of the Utah Automobile Dealers Association.

First-period sales in Utah plummeted 19 percent compared to the same time in 1988.

This year's third quarter has continued the improving sales trend, Kearsley said. "Some are doing better than others based on the product, but Utah has been better than other parts of the country."

New car sales jumped 5.1 percent, but commission economists note that the figure should be tempered by 1988's second period sales actually declined relative to the year before. Nationally, new car sales for second period 1989 fell 3.5 percent.

Among domestic car manufacturers, Ford Motor Co. enjoyed a 19.6 percent gain, largely because of strong sales in Ford and Mercury lines. Meanwhile, Chrysler Corp. had a slight 2 percent increase in sales, and General Motors suffered a 7.6 percent setback in the second quarter.

GM's Chevrolet make contributed to that company's decline in Utah sales, falling 14.3 percent from healthy sales during the same quarter a year before, the commission said. GM lines that experienced sales increases were Buick, Cadillac and Pontiac.

In the foreign car market, Asian makes overall performed well in Utah during the second quarter 1989, compared to the year before. Contributing to the 15.7 percent improvement were Acura, with a 75 percent sales increase; Honda, rising 20.7 percent; Toyota improving 34.7 percent; and Nissan posting a 38.7 percent gain.

Exceptions were Hyundai, Subaru and Isuzu, which slipped 26 percent, 24.9 percent and 50 percent respectively.

European makes didn't fare so well in the second quarter with sales off 22.7 percent, the commission said. All manufacturers suffered sales slumps, with Volkswagen dropping 9.6 percent, Mercedes 47.3 percent, Audi 42.1 percent, Saab 54.8 percent and Volvo down 34.5 percent.

New truck and motor home sales shot up 30.1 percent over last year's second period. Big gains were posted by domestic manufacturers as Chrysler showed the strongest performance with a 55.1 percent sales increase, selling 60 percent more Dodge trucks during this year's second period than last year's.

Plymouth and American lines also experienced an increase in Utah sales, while Jeep sales fell 2.9 percent.

Ford truck dealers sold 33.6 percent more units, while sales of GM trucks climbed 29.6 percent.

Asian truck manufacturers, although still lagging 1987 sales, experienced a particularly brisk quarter, the commission said, with Mitsubishi and Mazda sales growing 75 percent and 49.6 percent, respectively. Toyota truck sales increased 2.7 percent and Nissan sales slipped 23.7 percent.