The New York City metropolitan region's car dealers sold 6.5 percent more new vehicles last year than in 2010, the last year they were surveyed, and employed almost 4 percent more people, a trade group said.

They spent a little more on advertising, but the biggest increase was in direct mailings, while newspaper, TV, radio and even Internet ads declined.

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The Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association said in a biannual report released this week that retailers in the nine-county region sold $27.1 billion worth of new and used vehicles plus service and parts last year, up 12.4 percent from the last study, which covered 2010.

That dollar figure included sales of 429,000 new vehicles. Association president Mark Schienberg said he expects a 10 percent increase this year.

The association has about 400 members, representing almost 600 new-car dealerships. The recession put about 12 percent of the membership out of business between 2007 and 2009, said Schienberg. "We've regained some," he said, "but it never bounced back to where it was before."

The report, done by the market analysis firm Auto Outlook Inc. of Malvern, Pa., said area dealers employed 32,000 people in 2012, up 3.7 percent from 2010, including about 16,500 people in Nassau and Suffolk.

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The region that was studied also includes the city's five boroughs and Westchester and Rockland, but no counties in New Jersey or Connecticut.

New car dealers spent $388 million on advertising last year, an increase of less than 1 percent from 2010. Newspaper advertising fell by 14 percent from 2010, to $57.7 million. There were smaller percentage decreases in Internet, TV and radio advertising, but direct mailings soared by 65 percent, to $35.9 million. Schienberg said improving technology allows dealers to more directly target likely prospects, including motorists whose leases are near expiration. "They're getting more sophisticated," he said.