US auto sales race to 5-year high for November
"Exactly how much growth we can expect next year will depend in part on how Congress and the president resolve the fiscal cliff issue," McNeil added. "Consumers hate the uncertainty, so an agreement on ways to reduce long-term federal budget deficits could remove an impediment to growth."
The 15 percent sales gain in November easily surpassed the gain of 11 to 13 percent most analysts had expected. The annual sales rate in November of 15.54 million was the industry's strongest for any month since the 15.55 million rate of February 2008.
Superstorm Sandy hurt the last few days of sales in October, which finished below expectations, but many consumers simply shifted their purchases to November. In addition, the average age of cars on the road has risen to just above 11 years, and industry officials say that will continue to drive demand.
McNeil said the auto industry is clearly heading this year toward the high end of GM's forecasted range of 14 million to 14.5 million. Many analysts expect the industry to finish 2012 with 14.4 million sales, which would mark the strongest year since the 16.1 million of 2007.
TrueCar.com analyst Jesse Toprak expects U.S. auto sales to rise to 15.4 million next year. "Stable growth is really the motto of the industry."
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