Orange County’s auto sales are expected to rise 8.4% this year to 131,000 vehicles, according to a report from the Newport Beach-based Orange County Automobile Dealers Association.

The sales projection, which is based on data for light-vehicle registrations here, indicates a third-straight year of growth for OC dealers.

Local dealers began to see a sales recovery beginning in 2010, with a 10.4% increase from a year earlier to 106,329 vehicles.

That was followed by a 13.6% hike for 2011, to 120,800 vehicles sold.

The forecast for this year would still leave OC well off from a record set in 2004, when a total of 197,000 vehicles were sold here.

Overall auto industry sales continue to be hampered by the slow economic recovery, the report said.

Last year’s auto sales showed a dip in sales for Torrance-based Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc.’s Toyota and Scion brands in Orange County. They retained the top spot on sales here with a combined 20,895 vehicles in 2011, but turned in a 2.9% dip from 2010.

Toyota’s sales were hindered by supply constraints resulting from the March earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan.

The biggest gains in OC sales last year came from South Korean automakers.

Irvine-based Kia Motors America Inc., part of the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group in South Korea, reported the largest percentage increase. The automaker saw sales increase 84.2% to 4,221 vehicles sold here.

Kia’s sister company, Fountain Valley-based Hyundai Motor America Inc., saw the next-largest gain in sales here with a 54.5% increase to 8,843 vehicles sold here last year.

The OCADA commissioned London-based Experian PLC’s Experian Information Solutions Inc.’s automotive division in Costa Mesa for the report's data.