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Area auto sales fall 2.5 percent in March

Area new-vehicle sales fell 2.5 percent in March from a year ago, cooling off after two consecutive months of year-over-year increases.

The region recorded 5,152 new vehicles sold last month, down from 5,285 the year before, according to the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association. (Chevrolet does not disclose its sales figures.)

Despite the drop-off in March, local new-vehicle sales for the first three months of the year remained 6.6 percent ahead of the same period in 2012.

Among brands reporting sales, Ford set the pace, with 1,299 vehicles sold, representing one-quarter of the reported total. Toyota was second, despite an 18 percent decline from March 2012.

Paul Stasiak, president of the NFADA, said the month had some “anomalies,” such as Toyota’s drop-off, but he said dealers were reporting a good amount of showroom traffic in the first half of April. Stasiak said Easter’s placement on the calendar this year, at the end of March, could have inhibited sales activity over that weekend.

While local sales were down, U.S. vehicle sales across all brands nationwide increased 3.4 percent in March from a year ago, according to Automotive News. The region’s March total was still the best figure for any month since August 2012, according to NFADA data.

Some of the leading brands thrived locally last month. Nissan and Kia each recorded a 20 percent increase in sales, and each had its best month since last August. GMC sales were up 26 percent.

Joe Caldarelli, president of Mike Barney Nissan, said March was the Amherst dealership’s third-best sales month in its 33-year history, with more than 200 new units sold.

Caldarelli said Nissan’s strong March was driven by a combination of newly redesigned core products, aggressive programs and an incentive to retain customers who lease vehicles. “A lot of things have been flying off the shelves,” he said.