New models, strong incentives and a recovering economy led to strong year-over-year gains in auto purchases by Long Islanders in September.

Michigan-based auto data provider R.L. Polk & Co. said Nassau and Suffolk drivers registered 18,744 new cars and light-duty trucks in the month, a gain of 32 percent from the year-earlier month, which had been a weak one for sales. Nearly every major brand scored double-digit gains over September of last year.

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For 2013 through September, the local new-vehicle market ran 12 percent ahead of last year's, a pace that, if it continues to Dec. 31, would raise the total for the year to almost 227,000 cars and trucks.

A consultant to the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association -- whose membership includes dealerships on Long Island, the five boroughs and the northern suburbs -- forecast that new registrations in that region rose by 25 percent in October. But the consultant, Auto Outlook Inc. of Exton, Pa., said that last November and December's figures will be hard to top as sales were boosted because Long Islanders had to replace thousands of cars destroyed by superstorm Sandy.

September, in contrast, offered an easy comparison with a year earlier, when new registrations totaled 16,157, down 12 percent from September 2010.

Among high-volume local brands in September, Mercedes-Benz's gain was the largest: a 53 percent increase to 990 cars, Polk said. Chevrolet did almost as well, with new registrations up by almost 52 percent to 987 vehicles.

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Dealer Mark Calisi, whose Eagle Auto Mall in Riverhead retails Chevrolets, Kias, Mazdas and Volvos, said industry sales were spurred by strong leasing deals and other manufacturer incentives in September. "I have never seen such competitive prices among manufacturers on leases," he said.

Ford was another strong performer locally in September, Polk said, up 47 percent from a year earlier, to 1,256 cars and trucks. "It's consistent with where we've been tracking all year," Jim Splendore, Ford's regional manager, said in a telephone interview. In particular, he credited increased sales of the Fusion midsize car, Escape SUV and F-series pickup truck.

At Smithtown Toyota-Scion, general manager Denis Dagger said business in August was so strong -- helped by cash rebates, subsidized leasing and other incentives -- that many local dealers might have run short of product in August and been forced to delay deliveries of cars until September, further boosting the month's performance.

"August was just off the charts," said Dagger.Polk said Toyota registrations rose by 30 percent on Long Island in September from a year earlier, to 2,169 vehicles. Nissan's were up by 47 percent to 2,202 but Honda was, narrowly, the market leader once again, with registrations up 16 percent to 2,212 vehicles.

This year, registrations locally have exceeded last year's each month except February, when a blizzard buried dealer stocks and stranded many would be buyers in their homes. Registrations that month fell 3.9 percent that month from a year earlier.