Demand for minivans and sport utilities should help Detroit keep on truckin', but car sales are flat--and the Japanese loom large in the rearview again

Detroit is hoping 1997 will be another year on cruise control, although nervous auto executives are keeping a foot poised over the brake pedal, just in case. The economic growth, low interest rates, and strong consumer confidence that have fueled three years of solid auto sales appear to promise another good year for the industry. Says one institutional investor with large auto-stock holdings: "People actually still have some jingle in their pockets."

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