Long Island auto market up nearly 3 percent

Long Island car sales were up in August.

Long Island car sales were up in August. Photo Credit: AP

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The Long Island new vehicle market rose by almost 3 percent in the first half of this year over the same period a year earlier, although it trailed the New York metro area as a whole, new data show.

After a slow start from a harsh winter, Long Islanders registered 106,300 new vehicles between January and June of this year, up by 2,881 vehicles or 2.8 percent from the first six months of last year, according to a report done for the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association by consultant Auto Outlook Inc. of Exton, Pennsylvania.

Registrations in a nine-county region studied by Auto Outlook -- which includes the five boroughs, the Island, and Westchester and Rockland counties -- rose by 4 percent, to 250,788.

Port Washington-based Irwin Kellner, chief economist for MarketWatch.com, a financial-information website, said the slightly weaker Long Island performance might be traceable to superstorm Sandy's aftereffects in October 2012.

"That forced people to divert funds to repair of their homes and possibly to move," he said. And some Long Islanders might still have been replacing Sandy-damaged cars in the early months of last year, he said, artificially increasing vehicle sales and reducing the percentage gain from last year to this. "The base period is higher for Long Island than in other parts of the region that didn't get hit quite as hard" by Sandy, he said.

For the nine-county region, Auto Outlook is forecasting a 3.9 percent gain for all of this year over last. It estimated that July metro area registrations rose by 8 percent from a year earlier. It has no estimates specifically for Long Island.

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On the Island, annual new registration totals have risen steadily since 2009 -- the trough of the last recession; last year's total was 210,468, a 34 percent increase from 2009 and comfortably above the pre-recession 2006 total of 191,000. Registrations closely track sales.

Auto Outlook's report didn't offer a breakdown of passenger car versus light truck registrations for Long Island, but it said that, for the region, through July, sport utility vehicles, pickups and vans increased in popularity to a market share of 52 percent in July, up 4.8 points.

Local figures for August aren't available yet, but Chrysler Group, Ford, Toyota and Nissan Wednesday reported national sales for the month that exceeded analysts' expectations, according to Bloomberg News. General Motors and Chrysler, however, reported sales declines of 1.2 percent and almost 13 percent, respectively, although GM's truck sales rose by 18 percent.

"There's no question buyers are flocking to dealerships," Jeff Schuster, an analyst with researcher LMC Automotive in Southfield, Michigan, told Bloomberg. "We continue to see the market in a very strong position, beating expectations. As the auto industry pulls the economy along with it, we would expect to see this kind of performance for the remainder of the year."

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