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October new-vehicle sales down on LI

Scott Brown, co-owner of Robert Chevrolet in Hicksville,

Scott Brown, co-owner of Robert Chevrolet in Hicksville, says Sandy affected new sales in October, but the influx of customers replacing storm-damaged vehicles “more than made up for it in November.” Credit: Barry Sloan

Many Long Island car dealers had a bad month in October, even if their showrooms and inventory weren't damaged by superstorm Sandy.

Registrations of new vehicles here fell by 16 percent in the month from a year earlier, according to newly-available figures from the Michigan-based auto data provider R.L. Polk & Co.

But it appears likely dealers will make up the lost sales -- and then some -- as Long Islanders replace cars destroyed by the storm. The National Insurance Crime Bureau, a not-for-profit organization supported by the insurance industry, estimates that 230,000 vehicles were destroyed or at least damaged in states affected by Sandy.

Polk said Long Islanders registered 12,957 new vehicles in October, down from 15,545 a year earlier.

A local economist, major automakers and dealers said Sandy detracted from car sales as would-be buyers were occupied in the month's last full week with preparations for the storm and, in the month's final days, with storm damage and lack of power.

Sandy made landfall Oct. 29. Dealers sell proportionately more vehicles in a month's final days as they scramble to meet sales quotas upon which some manufacturer-to-dealer discounts depend.

Economist Pearl Kamer of the Long Island Association, a business group, said another factor was slow job growth on Long Island in October.

"Long Islanders are beginning to realize that this recovery does not look like prior economic recoveries and they're beginning to husband their cash," she said.

Dealers said that October of last year was a strong month locally, with new registrations almost 9 percent higher on the Island than in October of 2010.

This year, new registrations of nearly every major domestic and foreign-based brand declined in October, with three exceptions: BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Subaru.

Among the most popular brands in Nassau and Suffolk, Nissan decreased the most, falling 41.7 percent to 1,087 cars and trucks, followed by Honda, which fell by 26.6 percent to 1,599 vehicles.

Nationally, sales rose by 7 percent in October from a year earlier. But carmakers said gains either were trimmed by the impact of Sandy or turned into losses.

In November, sales nationally jumped 15 percent over the year-earlier period. Local figures for November are not yet available but dealers reported a surge in business that has continued this month, partly from consumers replacing cars destroyed by Sandy.

"We didn't have a strong close for the month," said co-owner Scott Brown of Robert Chevrolet in Hicksville, "but we more than made up for it in November."

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