Mary Hebel, left, and her daughter Ashley, of Lindenhurst, look...

Mary Hebel, left, and her daughter Ashley, of Lindenhurst, look at a Toyota RAV 4 at Toyota of Huntington in Huntington. (Jan. 5, 2013) Credit: Steve Pfost

Long Island car dealers sold 71 percent more new cars and trucks in November than a year earlier as buyers replaced vehicles destroyed by superstorm Sandy.

The data back up earlier reports from dealers of a bang-up month for sales.

Long Islanders registered 25,203 new cars and trucks in November, compared with 14,753 in the same month in 2011, according to newly available registration figures from R.L. Polk & Co., the Michigan-based vehicle data providers.

For the Island's two most popular makes -- Honda and Toyota -- sales roughly doubled, to more than 3,300 for Honda and 2,716 for Toyota. Nissan's registrations rose by 50 percent year-over-year to 2,653 vehicles.

"I've been doing this for 40 years and I have never seen that kind of buying," said general manager Denis Dagger of Smithtown Toyota in Smithtown. "People were buying cars for the whole family -- two and three at a time."

Dagger said his own sales were up about 110 percent in November from a year earlier and up by about 85 percent in December from a year earlier as storm victims continued to replace vehicles. For Toyota and Honda, he said, the increases were particularly striking because their sales in November of 2011 were dampened by continued shortages of vehicles resulting from the damage to production facilities in Japan from the earthquake and tsunami earlier that year.

Among other major makes on Long Island in November, Cadillac was up 75 percent from November 2011 to 486 vehicles; Chevrolet rose almost 79 percent to 1,118; Dodge was up 63 percent to to 544 vehicles; Ford was up 59 percent to 1,692 vehicles; Hyundai was up by 86 percent to 1,966 vehicles and Jeep was up 64 percent to 1,591.

The gains in November followed a weak October, when Long Islanders registered only 12,957 new vehicles, 16 percent fewer than a year earlier. Sandy struck Oct. 29. Local dealers said showroom traffic dropped off as the storm approached and would-be car shoppers prepared.

In the month's final days, some dealerships were damaged and many would-be car shoppers were occupied with storm-damaged homes and lack of electric power. Dealers normally sell proportionately more vehicles in a month's final days as they scramble to meet manufacturers' quotas.

For all of last year through November, registrations figures rose by less than one percent, to 181,696 vehicles, a lackluster performance attributed by local economists to the Island's painfully slow recovery from the recession. Nationally, vehicle sales were up by 14 percent in that 11-month period, to about 13.1 million.

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