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New car registrations flat on LI in July

New vehicle registrations on Long Island were flat in July compared with a year earlier, even as sales nationally continued to rise, according to new figures from the metro area's major auto dealers group.

Nassau and Suffolk consumers registered 19,697 new vehicles during the month, a decline of 82 cars and trucks, or a fraction of 1 percent, from July of last year, according to data from the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, based in Whitestone, Queens.

By comparison, sales for the nation as a whole rose by 9 percent in July from a year earlier, to 1.4 million units, according to the trade paper Automotive News.

And registrations for the nine-county metro area covered by the dealer group rose by 3 percent in July, according to its statistics. New registrations closely track new car sales.

Local dealers had a tough act to follow in July. A year earlier, in July 2013, the Island outpaced the nation as a whole. Sales nationally rose by 14 percent from the same month in 2012, but new registrations locally rose by 20 percent -- to 19,779 vehicles.

For the year through July, Long Island new vehicle registrations increased 2.3 percent over the first seven months of last year. Nationally, sales through July were up 5 percent, according to Automotive News.

Associate economics professor Martin Melkonian of Hofstra University said in a recent interview that a reason for lagging auto sales locally might be that the Island's economy is recovering more slowly than that of the nation as a whole. He pointed to the loss of thousands of high-paying jobs as companies such as OSI Pharmaceutical and Grumman leave or downsize -- jobs that in many cases have been replaced by others with less pay and benefits or even part-time work.

The July figures are the most recent available for Long Island.

At the 22-store Atlantic Auto Group, which handles 13 domestic and import brands, co-owner Michael Brown said his sales last month were up 12 percent from a year earlier.

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