New automobiles continued to be a high priority for Clark County consumers in the three months ending in September, a big-ticket shopping spree that pushed retail sales to the strongest third-quarter showing since 2007.Clark County’s taxable retail sales increased 6.8 percent to nearly $1.2 billion during the three-month period in 2012, compared to the same period in 2011, the Washington State Department of Revenue reported Tuesday. The total sales include non-retail sectors such as construction and services.Store-only retail trade rose 8.1 percent to $540.4 million in Clark County sales, helped along by major contributors such as motor vehicle and auto parts sales. The category rose 21.8 percent to $105.1 million.Local auto dealers say they aren’t surprised by the increase as they’re seeing car and truck buyers finally getting around to replacing their well-used vehicles. Before the recession, car buyers typically traded in every 48 to 60 months, said Randy Dickerson, owner of Westlie Ford with operations in Camas and Washougal.The typical buyer has recently held out between one and two years longer than that before trading in, he said.“The overall fleet of people’s cars has gotten older than at any time in history in the United States,” Dickerson said.He added that many dealers also have seen a sales increase in services, such as auto repair.“They’re paying more money on maintenance to make their cars last longer,” Dickerson said.In addition to trading up for newer models, Dickerson sees more customers trading in gas guzzlers for his company’s most fuel-efficient car and truck models. Click to enlarge.