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New-car sales in the region increased 13 percent in September from a year ago, adding to what has been a strong year for many dealers.

Franchised new-car dealers reported selling 4,647 new units, compared to 4,119 in September 2012, according to the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association. (The figures exclude big seller Chevrolet, whose numbers are not disclosed.)

Through the first nine months of the year, sales were up 10 percent from the same period a year ago. In eight of the nine months this year, sales were higher than the same month in 2012.

Among the brands reporting sales, Ford’s 14 area dealers led the way with 1,142 new cars and trucks sold. Ford accounted for nearly a quarter of the monthly total reported by the NFADA.

Ford’s total was up about 32 percent from a year ago, and made up for sales declines reported by some other high-selling brands, such as Toyota, Nissan and Jeep. Meanwhile, Honda, Dodge, Kia and Subaru were among the other leading brands reporting increases.

Frank Downing Jr., president of Towne Automotive Group, said his dealership group had its best-ever September, with sales up 22 percent from September 2012, which itself was a strong month.

Sales of trucks – for personal and business use – such as the Ford F-150 and the Dodge Ram have fueled sales of those two particular brands, he said.

Downing said lease renewals are another important factor. He said many leases are maturing, and 70 percent of those customers are leasing new vehicles.

He expects the lease portfolio to grow until it flattens out about June 2015.

“We had a big void in lease terminations from most of the banks getting out of leasing years ago,” he said. “They jumped back in about two to three years ago and we are starting to see the benefit of that with our growth in our lease portfolio.”

The region’s October sales results could indicate whether the partial shutdown of the federal government, as well as the battle over raising the debt ceiling, is inhibiting sales. And while gas prices remain high – averaging $3.70 per gallon locally, according to the AAA – they are down from $3.86 a month ago and $4.11 a year ago.

While this year is not yet over, Edmunds.com already expects big things from car sales nationally in 2014.

Edmunds.com predicts new car and truck sales will reach 16.4 million next year, which would be the best total since 2006. It forecasts sales will finish at about 15.5 million units this year.

Nationally, new-auto sales have risen each of the past four years after bottoming out in 2009 amid the recession.

email: mglynn@buffnews.com