Local new-vehicle sales showed steady gains in April.

New car and truck sales at franchised dealers rose 16 percent from a year ago, to 4,998 units, according to the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association.

It was the region’s best April total since 2008, according to NFADA data. And through the first four months of this year, regional auto sales were up 9 percent from the same period in 2012.

Among brands reporting their figures (Chevrolet does not), Ford was the leader with 1,172 units sold. That was up 23 percent from a year ago. And the vehicles sold by Ford’s 14 area dealers accounted for nearly a quarter of all the April vehicle sales disclosed by the NFADA.

Toyota was second behind Ford among the brands disclosing their sales; its total of 649 was down 3.6 percent from last year. Honda, Nissan and Hyundai were next in the results. Nissan nearly tripled its total from April 2012, which turned out to be the brand’s weakest local sales month of last year.

Paul Stasiak, the NFADA’s president, said aggressive lease programs contributed to the increase in sales over a year ago.

“The economy seems to be promising,” he said. “I think there seems to be a tremendous amount of pent-up demand, no question.”

Dealers are taking in a lot of older trade-ins, he said. Experts have pointed to the high average age of vehicles on the road as a sign that more new sales were on the way.

May is also shaping up as a good month for dealers so far, Stasiak said. “They’ve got inventory.”

Sales figures through April point toward the region’s new-vehicle sales increasing this year for a fourth consecutive year, following a sharp dropoff in 2009.

Auto sales strong in April

Top selling brands for month*:

Brand April ’13 April ’12 % change

Ford 1,172 954 +23

Toyota 649 673 -3.6

Honda 426 362 +17.7

Nissan 375 132 +284

Hyundai 290 226 +28

Kia 285 197 +45

Dodge 256 235 +9

GMC 232 186 +25

Jeep 227 237 -4.2

Subaru 189 166 +14

*Chevrolet does not disclose figures.

Source: Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association