Long Islanders registered 3.7 percent more new vehicles in May than a year earlier, new data show, with the faster increase in Suffolk County.

Nassau and Suffolk motorists registered 19,013 new cars and pickups, vans, minivans and SUVs in May, according to an analysis of figures from IHS Automotive, a consulting company based in Southfield, Michigan. Registrations of new vehicles approximate sales.

The analysis is done monthly for the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association for a 12-county region that includes, besides Long Island, the five boroughs of New York City and the northern suburbs of Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Orange counties.

Nassau registrations rose by 2.9 percent in May from a year earlier, while those in Suffolk rose by 4.5 percent.

Nassau and Suffolk's gain in May fell short of the 5.6 percent gain for the region as a whole.

But the Long Island gains were stronger than the national sales gain in May of 1.6 percent from a year earlier.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

IHS didn't provide a breakdown by vehicle type for each county, but for the 12-county region a surge of almost 15 percent in light-truck registrations in May overcame a 3.4 percent decline in passenger car registrations to provide the 5.6 percent industry gain.

That trend is evident nationally as well, said a Michigan-based IHS senior analyst, Stephanie Brinley. The main reasons for it are lower gasoline prices and a wider choice of relatively small SUV models that are affordable and get fuel economy comparable to mid-size passenger cars.

She says a generally stronger economy also is encouraging SUV sales. "Generally it reflects a more comfortable economic state of mind," she said.

Gasoline prices began falling in early July of last year, from a Nassau-Suffolk average for regular of $4.036 a gallon July 2, 2014, to a low of $2.348 on Feb. 2, according to the AAA. Regular gas on Long Island averaged $2.941 Wednesday morning.

Including estimates for June, the Honda brand held the largest share of the 12-county market so far this year -- 13.6 percent, followed by Toyota, Nissan, Jeep and Ford.

Last year, Long Islanders registered 3.8 percent more new vehicles than in 2013. Nationally sales for all of last year beat those of 2013 by 6 percent.