NADA’s Taylor Forecasts U.S. Auto Sales to Rise 10% This Year

U.S. sales of cars and light trucks are expected to rise by about 10 percent this year to 13.9 million, reflecting improved consumer demand and more stable credit availability, a dealer group said.

Paul Taylor, chief economist of the National Automobile Dealers Association (0052259D), said better credit, improved incentives and low interest rates are spurring vehicle sales, according to a statement. He spoke at a press briefing during the NADA Convention and Expo in Las Vegas, reiterating a forecast the group gave last month.

Automakers sold new cars and trucks in January at the fastest pace since the 2009 “cash for clunkers” program without resorting to profit-sapping discounts, signaling demand returned to pre-recession levels.

“Recent sales are what we would expect from a normal growing economy coming back from recession,” Taylor said in the statement.

Taylor said one- to five-year-old used vehicles are in short supply and selling at higher-than-usual prices. He said 5 million vehicles weren’t traded in during the recession, which has bumped up the average age of cars and light trucks.

A rise in gasoline prices could be a factor that may affect sales this year, the group also said. Analysts forecast the prices may rise to $4.13 per gallon, up from an average of $3.51 last year.

NADA also said it expects used vehicle prices to gain 1.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis this year, peaking in April and May. Used vehicle prices gained 3 percent in 2011, NADA said.

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