SPRINGFIELD | After running out of gas during the height of the recession, car sales in Illinois have rebounded, according to a new analysis of state tax receipts.
The Commission on Government Financing and Accountability, which provides fiscal data for the Illinois General Assembly, said new car sales in Illinois could surpass the 590,000 mark this fiscal year, marking a significant jump from the 420,000 units sold in 2009.
The trend mirrors a surge in car sales nationally and could mean an unexpected bump in tax revenue for the state.
“If this level of growth were to continue throughout the fiscal year, the state would see growth of approximately $140 million in sales tax ... from the auto sector alone,” revenue analyst Benjamin Varner noted.
Illinois saw its highest level of auto sales in 2001 at more than 860,000 units sold. Sales tapered off through 2007 and then fell significantly in 2008 and 2009 during the depth of the recession.
Analysts say a combination of pent-up demand, renewed consumer confidence and low interest rates has helped fuel the increase.
In Illinois, car sales are up 7.5 percent so far this year, but the amount of tax attributable to vehicle sales is growing by more than 11 percent compared with the same time period last year.
Varner said state officials should keep their expectations of a big payday in check.
“Expecting this kind of growth to continue throughout the year may be wishful thinking at this point but does show how well this sector has performed in recent months,” he noted.
Peter Sander, president of the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association, also expressed caution about the trend.
“Whether we’re going to be able to sustain this going forward remains a question,” Sander said Thursday. "We hope we can."