Thomas Hart, a sales consultant at the Riverhead Ford-Lincoln dealership,...

Thomas Hart, a sales consultant at the Riverhead Ford-Lincoln dealership, shows Melanie Drozd of Mastic a 2014 Ford Explorer. Ford cars and trucks led in local sales increases. (Sept. 19, 2013) Credit: Randee Daddona

Long Islanders registered 20 percent more new cars and trucks in July than a year earlier, with Ford and Toyota leading the way.

Nassau and Suffolk drivers registered 19,879 vehicles in July, according to Michigan-based auto data provider R.L. Polk & Co. For the year through July, registrations were up 10 percent.

Industry analysts have attributed rebounding auto sales nationally to improved consumer confidence, a large selection of new models and pent-up demand because of purchases postponed during the recession. Locally, dealers said sales early in the year also were boosted by replacements of cars destroyed by superstorm Sandy.

If the local trend continues to the end of the year, dealers will have delivered 20,000 more new vehicles than the 202,600 last year and about 72,000 more than the 150,000 sold in 2009, at the bottom of the recession.

Registrations locally have exceeded last year's in each month except February, when a blizzard buried dealer stocks and kept many would-be buyers in their homes.

The growth locally in July exceeded the 14 percent sales gain nationally that month.

August figures aren't available yet for Long Island, but nationally car sales in August and September were strong, according to J.D. Power and Associates and the forecasting firm LMC Automotive. "When combined, August and September retail sales are expected to be up 10.6 percent, compared with August and September 2012," John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power said in a report Thursday.

On Long Island, Ford cars and trucks -- not including Lincolns -- showed the biggest percentage increase in sales, with registrations rising 40 percent in July from a year earlier, to 1,292 vehicles, Polk said.

Amanda DeMouthe, Ford Motor Co. marketing manager for the region that includes New York, said the biggest gains in the New York City metropolitan area were in sales of the compact Escape and midsize Explorer SUVs. She said the market for midsize SUVs is recuperating after a few soft years, amid fuel economy gains by the vehicles and gasoline prices that, while high, are stable. "Plus," she said, "consumers are getting more confident in the economy."

Toyota had the second-biggest percentage gain, with registrations up by 20 percent in July, to 2,089. Honda remained the Island's best-selling brand, with registrations totaling 2,478 in July, up 10 percent from a year earlier.

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