In 2008, Frank Pugliese, general manager of Millennium Toyota in Hempstead, part of the dealership group. (Photo by James A. Escher)

The nation’s eighth largest chain of new car dealers, based on vehicles sold last year, got its start in West Islip in the early 1980’s and still is a significant presence in the local auto market: The Staluppi Group, which, according to its Web site includes 17 Long Island dealerships handling eight brands.

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Now headquartered in North Palm Beach, Fla., the group consists of 24 dealerships with $1.7 billion in gross revenues last year, according to a list published recently by the trade paper Automotive News of the 125 largest dealer groups.

Founder John Staluppi and his son, John Staluppi Jr., are listed as co-chief executive officers.

Combined unit sales for the group last year were 39,286 new cars and trucks. That’s big, but it’s dwarfed by the biggest on the Automotive News list: AutoNation Inc., based on Ft. Lauderdale and consisting of 203 dealerships with $10.3 billion in combined gross revenues and 179,521 new vehicle sales.

Ranked second, with almost 141,000 new vehicles sold last year, is the Penske Auto Group, headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. and consisting of 149 dealership, including two on Long Island: Westbury Scion and Westbury Toyota, sharing a building on Old Country Road.