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Local auto sales fell in December, but full-year sales for 2012 still increased, according to the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association.

December sales dropped 4.1 percent, to 3,829 units, the NFADA said. Full-year sales rose 2.9 percent to 52,069 units. (The statistics exclude Chevrolet, which does not disclose its monthly figures.)

Among the brands reporting sales, Ford was the leader, with 856 units sold by 14 area dealers; however, the sales total was down 21 percent from a year ago.

Next came Toyota, whose five area dealers sold 517 units, up from 506 the year before. Honda, Nissan and GMC followed on the list.

Though Chevy was not counted in the NFADA total, December was a notable month for Joe Basil Chevrolet. The Depew dealership was No. 1 in New York State and No. 4 nationally in sales volume for the month, selling 379 units.

“We had significant repeat referral customer sales,” said James Basil, the dealer principal. Its sales of Silverado trucks were also exceptionally strong.

Additionally, he said, the dealership recorded robust sales of Malibus and Equinoxes. Basil said he is already getting inquiries about the new Corvette and Silverado, both of which are due in the showroom later this year.

Basil said customers seem more confident with their buying, and gas prices do not seem to be a deterrent. Plus, he said, many of the vehicles they are buying today are more fuel-efficient than they were several years ago.

Among the top-10 selling brands whose December numbers were released by the NFADA, five reported declines from a year ago, four recorded increases, and one – Honda – was unchanged.

Frank Downing Jr., president of Towne Automotive Group, said December was the dealer group’s second-best December ever, with BMW and Ford as standout franchises. With BMW, the dealer group had projected selling 80 new units but delivered 123, Downing said.

“It wasn’t long ago when delivering 50 in December was a great job, so to deliver over 100 new was outstanding,” he said.

On a full-year basis, local auto sales have climbed for four consecutive years, according to NFADA data, as the industry rebounds from the recession and a restructuring of some brands’ dealer networks.

This is the time of year when auto dealers are preparing for the Buffalo Auto Show, which they use to energize consumers’ interest in buying new cars. The show will run Feb. 6 to 10 in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

At least one new-car dealership will go into business this year. Basil Volkswagen of Lockport plans to open this summer after completing construction of the $4 million dealership. Towne Automotive hopes to have its $1.9 million new Mini store in Clarence open by the end of July.

Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive officer of Fiat and Chrysler, made news a few days ago when he said he expects Alfa Romeo vehicles will be sold in the United States by year’s end after being absent since 1995. Alfa Romeo is owned by Fiat SpA, which is also the majority owner of Chrysler. Fiat has not yet announced which U.S. dealers will sell Alfa Romeos.

Many forecasters have estimated U.S. new-vehicle sales this year could rise to 15 million units or higher, after reaching 14.5 million units in 2012. Nationally, car sales have been rising but are still below the annual 16 million to 17 million unit level that was common before the recession.

email: mglynn@buffnews.com