GM Says Industry Vehicle Sales May Exceed 15.5 Million

U.S. light-vehicle sales could exceed

15.5 million this year, especially if automakers use end-of-the-year incentives aggressively, General Motors Co. Chief Economist Mustafa Mohatarem said.

“If there’s a big sales contest at the end, you’ll get above it,” he told reporters today following a presentation at the Center for Automotive Research’s annual Management Briefing Seminars near Traverse City, Michigan. “Mathematically, it’s not going to take a whole lot to be higher than 15.5.”

U.S. car and light truck sales climbed 14 percent in July to 1.32 million, according to Autodata Corp. The annualized industry sales rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, was 15.8 million, accelerating from 14.2 million a year earlier. The industry’s sales pace for the month keeps the U.S. on track for its best year since 16.1 million vehicles were sold in 2007.

“Things are very, very positive,” Mohatarem said during a presentation at the conference. “I’m hearing more concern about the fact that do we have enough cars to sell rather than do we have too many cars to sell?” GM isn’t revising its 2013 U.S. light-vehicle forecast of as many as 15.5 million deliveries for the year.

Low interest rates and competitive lease deals are helping boost new car sales, because Americans tend to buy vehicles based on monthly payments.

The auto industry is outperforming the broader U.S. economy, which grew at an annualized rate of 1.7 percent in the second quarter, Commerce Department figures showed last week. Growth has averaged 2.2 percent during the expansion that entered its fifth year in July, a slower pace than the first four years of the last three economic recoveries, Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Ford’s chief economist, said last week.

Separately, GM said it’s boosting a planned Spring Hill, Tennessee, plant investment by $167 million. The Detroit-based automaker is adding $40 million to a previously announced mid-size vehicle program and will spend $127 million on a second mid-size vehicle program. The moves will retain or create 1,800 jobs, according to a statement on GM’s website.

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