Rising gas prices didn't put a crimp in local auto sales in August.
Sales by franchised new-car dealers increased by 9.2 percent in August from a year ago, to 5,370 units, according to the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association. It was the fifth straight month that the region's sales were higher than the same month the year before.
"I think there's a lot of positive momentum going into the fourth quarter," said Paul Stasiak, president of the NFADA.
Through the first eight months, local sales were 4.9 percent ahead of last year's total, with 36,076 new vehicles sold.
Among the brands publicly reporting sales figures (Chevrolet does not), Ford's 14 dealers led with 1,038 units, even though their collective total declined by 6 percent from a year ago.
Toyota sold 771 units, up by 32 percent from August 2011, when the automaker was still coping with inventory shortages triggered by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Mike Basil, owner of Basil Toyota in Lockport, said his dealership "now has inventory across the board for every model. Correspondingly, we are supporting the models with the proper incentives."
Among his best sellers are the new Camry, the RAV 4, the Corolla and the Highlander.
Dealers are trying to make sales against the backdrop of rising gas prices. The AAA says the average price of a gallon in Buffalo Niagara is $4.08, up from $3.84 a month ago, when the August deals were being made.
"Gas is still the top of everybody's mind," Basil said, adding that his sales have not been hurt by the rising prices. He said the Prius hybrid has become a steady seller no matter which direction fuel prices are going.
Basil said his dealership is on track to match its best sales year, 2010, when it sold about 1,500 new vehicles and 500 used vehicles.
The dealership moved into a new location in Lockport several months ago. Basil said the new facility has helped boost sales, since he now has room to display 14 cars in the showroom.
Stasiak said that while Buffalo Niagara's August rise in sales may not have been as high as the national figures, the region fared better than many last year when sales were not as robust, pointing to a consistent market. The National Automobile Dealers Association said U.S. auto sales rose by 19.8 percent in August.
Among the 10 brands that reported their local sales in August, eight had increases over a year ago. Kia's three area dealers reported selling 271 units, the brand's best total this year. And counting the August figures, Fiat marked a full 12 months of local sales, selling a total of 112 units, at one dealership, over that span.
August sales leaders
Brand Aug. 2012 Aug. 2011 Percent change
Ford 1,038 1,106 -6.1
Toyota 771 584 +32.0
Nissan 559 480 +16.5
Honda 443 299 +48.0
Jeep 365 258 +41.5
Kia 271 267 +1.5
Hyundai 264 286 -7.7
Dodge 230 164 +40.2
GMC 228 206 +10.7
Subaru 187 145 +29.0
*Chevrolet does not release figures
Source: Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association