After a disappointing February and March, Long Island car and truck sales surged in April from a year earlier.
Registrations of new vehicles rose 12.5 percent in April from the same month last year, to 16,163 vehicles, said the Michigan-based auto information provider R.L. Polk & Co. The resurgence was led by Toyota and Nissan.
The rebound is especially notable because retail sales overall fell by 1 percent on Long Island during April from a year earlier, said economist Pearl Kamer of the Long Island Association, a business group.
"I think what we're seeing is a pent-up demand for cars," Kamer said. "During the recession, a lot of people put off buying new cars."
Also helping drive sales, she said, are low inflation and low auto loan rates.
Nationally, sales rose 2 percent in April from a year earlier, to just under 1.2 million, according to data compiled by the trade paper Automotive News.
On Long Island, Toyota's increase in April was the largest -- 27 percent, to 1,749 vehicles. Company spokesman Wade Hoyt in New York said in an email, "Inventories have returned to normal levels after the [Japanese] earthquake and tsunami, and the flooding of suppliers in Thailand. New models (Camry, the expanded Prius family) usually boost sales too."
Those events disrupted Japanese auto manufacturers, and caused local car sales to sink by almost 7 percent in April 2011 from the 2010 level.
General manager Denis Dagger of Smithtown Toyota-Scion says attractive lease programs on many models and favorable reviews also helped in April, as did falling gasoline prices. "I think the gas stabilizing right now is going to be good for middle range cars, not just the Camry but everyone's."
Nissan's registrations increased by 289 vehicles or 24.5 percent in April to 1,468 vehicles, led by the Altima, Rogue and Sentra.
In March, Long Islanders had registered 8.5 percent fewer new cars and trucks than a year earlier. February's figures were flat with a year earlier but, in January, the total was up 6.5 percent.
Honda remained Long Island's most popular brand in April, with 2,261 new ones registered, but that figure represented a decline of 8.4 percent from a year earlier.
Company spokesman Chris Naughton in New York said in an email, "Some of the decrease can be accounted for by the limited supply of CR-Vs and Pilots during the first four months of year."
Some domestic makes scored increases in April, although on smaller volumes -- including Jeep, whose registrations rose by 47 percent from a year earlier, to 985 vehicles.