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LI December car sales gain over year earlier

Sales consultant Michael A. Fox, left, talks with

Sales consultant Michael A. Fox, left, talks with customers at Toyota of Huntington. Registrations for new Toyotas on Long Island were up about 60 percent in December compared to a year earlier. (Jan. 5, 2013) Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Long Islanders registered almost 40 percent more cars in December than a year earlier, new data show, as residents continued a post-Sandy buying bubble to replace storm-damaged cars.

The momentum in car purchases, however, is decelerating. November's year over year increase was 71 percent. Sandy struck Oct. 29.

"We definitely saw a decline in December and even more of a decline in January compared to how November was," said Michael Villani, owner of Garden City Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, Ram. "December was still good compared to 2011. And January was just a little better than in 2012, but I didn't see a huge demand from people coming through the door and saying they lost a car in Sandy."

Long Islanders registered 20,927 new cars and trucks in December.

The biggest year-to-year gain numerically in December was by Honda, the island's best-selling brand. New registrations of Hondas rose by 893 vehicles or 48.5 percent, to 2,733 vehicles, according to the new figures from the Michigan-based auto data provider R.L. Polk & Co.

At Babylon Honda, in West Babylon, dealership owner Gary Schimmerling said that while his December business was up from a year earlier, it was less than half the 300 vehicles he sold in November. "I think most people had already gotten their insurance settlements and their new cars so, yes, we saw a decline in business."

Toyota registrations increased by 795 vehicles or almost 60 percent in December from a year earlier. Other big gainers were Hyundai, Volkswagen, Ford and Chevrolet.

The gains in November had followed a weak October, when Long Islanders registered only 12,957 new vehicles, 16 percent fewer than a year earlier. Local dealers said showroom traffic dropped off as the storm approached. Some dealerships were damaged, while many would-be car shoppers were occupied with storm-damaged homes and the lack of electric power.

For all of last year, new vehicle registrations on Long Island increased by 9.9 percent, to 202,588, Polk said. Nationally, sales rose by 13 percent last year, to 14.5 million new vehicles, according to the trade paper Automotive News.

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