Long Islanders registered 5.7 percent more new cars and trucks in October than a year earlier, new data show, with SUV sales leading the way.
Nassau and Suffolk drivers registered 16,996 new cars, sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and vans in October, 918 more than in October 2013, according to an analysis by a consultant to the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, based on data from auto data provider R.L. Polk & Co. The data are the latest available for Long Island.
The October year-over-year gain exceeded September's 3 percent growth in registrations but fell short of August's 10 percent gain over August 2013, the data show. Registrations approximate sales.
Long Island's October gain fell just shy of the 6 percent sales gain for the nation as a whole in October, according to sales figures from the trade paper Automotive News.
Dealers and industry experts have attributed the gains nationally and locally to an improving economy, low interest rates, easier credit terms, an aging fleet from vehicle sales postponed during the recession and, most recently, falling gasoline prices, which have left consumers with more disposable income.
For the nine-county area studied for the dealer association, registrations had fallen 22 percent from about 452,000 in 2007 to 351,800 in 2009. They recovered to an estimated total last year of 510,700. The nine counties include the five boroughs of New York City plus Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland and Westchester.
For the region, registrations of passenger cars slipped 2.8 percent in October from a year earlier while registrations of light trucks rose almost 17 percent.
Gasoline pump prices nationwide have been falling since early July. On Long Island, regular gasoline Monday morning cost an average of $2.673 a gallon -- down $1.36 a gallon from the recent high of $4.036 on July 2, according to the AAA.
At the Manhattan office of IHS Automotive, a forecasting firm, senior auto economist George Magliano said it expects gas prices to stay relatively low through next year, helping propel nationwide auto sales, especially those of SUVs, to 16.9 million this year, compared with 16.5 million last year.
"As soon as gas prices started moderating six months ago, people started shifting from cars to trucks," a category encompassing SUVs, he said. The trend, however, could slow with a normal seasonal increase in gas prices, he said.