Long Islanders registered 6.5 percent more new vehicles in October than a year earlier, new figures from a dealer association show.
The gains were all in Nassau County, based on the registrations figures from the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association. Consumers in Nassau registered 9,220 new cars, pickups, SUV’s and vans in October than a year earlier, a gain of 12 percent, but Suffolk’s total was essentially flat at 8,178 vehicles.
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Nassau’s relative strength in new car registrations has been apparent all year; through October, Nassau’s total was up 5 percent, while Suffolk’s rose by 1 percent.
Local economists have attributed the differing performances to generally lower incomes and overall wealth in Suffolk, in part because its population is younger, on average, and in part because Nassau residents can more easily commute to Manhattan, where job growth has been stronger than on Long Island.
Long Island’s year-to-date gain, a combined 2.7 percent, was weaker than the 6 percent jump for the 12-county region studied by the dealer group. Besides Long Island, the region includes the five boroughs of New York City and five northern suburban counties.
Gains for the entire region in October were weaker than the 13.6 percent jump nationally in sales, according to figures published by the trade paper Automotive News.
October’s figures are the latest available for Long Island. If the 2.7 percent year-to-date growth rate continued through November and December, the Island’s motorists will have registered 5,682 more cars this year than last year’s total of 210,468 vehicles. The gain from 2013 to 2014, however, was 4 percent.
Michael Brown, co-owner of the Island’s largest dealership chain, the 22-store Atlantic Auto Group based in West Islip, said his own sales have been running about 5 percent ahead of last year’s. For the Island as a whole next year, “I think you’ll see a similar type of year — 3 or 5 percent,” he said.
Local economists have predicted that the Island’s economy will grow by 2 percent to 2.5 percent in 2016, slightly faster than it did this year, when it was held back by severe winter storms, a strong U.S. dollar that reduced exports, and shaken consumer confidence after August’s stock market plunge.
Still, the 2014 Long Island new auto registrations figure represented a 34 percent increase from the total in 2009, when the last recession ended. Helping bolster sales have been cheaper gasoline and the popularity of leasing, which accounts for almost six in 10 vehicle sales on Long Island and usually brings consumers back to showrooms every three years.
Dealers and local economists have said they believe the growth in vehicle registrations is slowing now because pent-up demand from purchases postponed during the recession has largely been satisfied. Other factors they have cited: stagnant wages, and the substitution of low-paying jobs for higher-paying positions that were lost during the recession or when firms relocated off the Island.