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LI vehicle registrations jump 10 percent

New-vehicle registrations on Long Island rose 10 percent in August from a year earlier, new figures show.

Long Islanders registered 20,590 new cars and trucks in August, the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association said, based on an analysis of data from R.L. Polk & Co., a Michigan company.

The gains varied widely by county, with Nassau's total up by only 4.9 percent from a year earlier, while Suffolk's was up by 15.2 percent.

No reason was apparent for the difference and at the area's largest dealership chain, the 22-store Atlantic Auto Group, co-owner Michael Brown said his dealerships in both counties performed about equally well, increasing his company's total August sales by about 12 percent. "It was pretty well balanced," he said.

He attributed the growth Islandwide to improved consumer confidence, stock market gains, easier credit and growing numbers of cars that were leased during the industry recovery of 2010 and 2011 now coming back to dealerships to be replaced by new cars. "That's definitely helping sales -- it's a big driver," he said.

Associate economics professor Martin Melkonian of Hofstra University theorized that the easing of credit might be having a greater impact in Suffolk, where average incomes are somewhat lower than in Nassau. "A lot of people who perhaps wouldn't have qualified because of their incomes are being looked at again by lenders," he said.

The Long Island data were contained in a monthly report prepared for the dealer group by an outside consultant for a nine-county region that also includes the five boroughs of New York City, plus Westchester and Rockland. For the region, registrations rose by 8 percent in August and by an estimated 4 percent in September, both over a year earlier.

Registrations closely track new vehicle sales. Nationally, sales rose by 6 percent in August from a year earlier, according to the trade paper Automotive News.

In July, new-vehicle registrations on Long Island were flat with a year earlier as Nassau and Suffolk consumers registered 19,697 new vehicles.

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