Certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles

have become an increasingly significant part of automakers' sales and marketing programs. According to a new study conducted by New Jersey-based research and consulting firm, TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, CPO sales are

expected to reach approximately 1.6 million units by year's end, up significantly from the 516,000 units sold in 2000.

The study reveals that the most successful CPO brands in terms of sales over the past 12 months include Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Dodge, and Honda. The report indicates further opportunity for growth as only 32 percent of the population claim a strong understanding of the term "certified pre-owned."

CPO vehicles are a select group of late-model used vehicles, most commonly off-lease, which undergo a rigorous inspection process and are then certified by the original vehicle manufacturer. CPOs are backed by a manufacturer's warranty and then marketed as the cream of the used-car crop on dealer lots.

The study suggests that CPO sales will continue to rise well into 2005 and beyond as awareness levels increase in response to manufacturer's increasingly aggressive marketing efforts.

According to the report, much of the growth expected in the coming months is likely to come from younger buyers, aged 18-34. Susheel Philip, an auto analyst at TechnoMetrica, says that "An increasing number of younger buyers

have entered the CPO market over the past 12 months. This trend should continue as awareness levels among this group is expected to rise at a faster rate than the general population."