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.
"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.
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.