New-Vehicle Sales in U.S. May Top 16.9 Million in 2015

U.S. sales of new cars and light trucks are forecast to exceed 16.9 million next year as the country’s economy continues to improve, the National Automobile Dealers Association said.

That’s about a half-million more vehicles than automakers are on pace to sell this year, the group said in a statement today, and would be the most since the industry sold 16.99 million in 2005, before the U.S. entered a recession. The 2015 prediction is still short of the 17.4 million peak from 2000.

Rising employment, low interest rates and cheap gasoline signal the sales increases in 2015, Steven Szakaly, NADA’s chief economist, said in the statement. More incentives and increased purchases from young drivers would be needed for new-car sales to top 17 million next year, Szakaly said.

“2015 is shaping up to be a good year for the U.S.,” Szakaly said on a conference call with reporters. “I think that economic growth will swamp any effects within the market.”

The 16.9 million sales forecast depends on interest rates remaining low, Szakaly said in the statement. NADA expects long-term rates on auto loans to rise next year, though not enough to damp the sales outlook, he said.

The industry group represents almost 16,000 new-car and - truck dealerships.

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