By Drew Johnson
Thursday, Dec 20th, 2012 @ 9:58 am
 

A strong final push is expected to inch up the nation's total car sales this year, a new forecast predicts. December sales have been red-hot so far, bucking any worries that the so-called fiscal cliff would derail auto sales during the last month of the year.

According to the latest data from J.D. Power and Associates, December retail sales, which are view as the true measure of consumer demand, will total 1,152,500 units, representing a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 12.2 million units. That figure is 500,000 units above the retail forecast for 2012.

Luxury vehicles sales have been particularly strong during December and are expected to make up 16 percent of the total retail market. In comparison, luxury vehicles accounted for 15.3 percent of the market in November and 14.8 percent of the market in December 2011.

"Luxury sales always do well this time of the year, but December is turning out to be a great month," said John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. "New and re-designed vehicle introductions, along with enhanced incentive activity, have been key drivers of the recovery in the luxury market."

Total light vehicle sales, which include fleet, are expected to increase 14 percent to 1,358,600 units in December.

Given that strong final month, the sales forecast for 2012 has been bumped from 14.4 million units to 14.5 million units. That momentum is forecasted to carryover into 2013, with analysts calling for 15 million sales next year.

"The U.S. light-vehicle sales market continues to be a bright spot in the tremulous global environment," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. "The only major roadblock ahead for the U.S. market is the fiscal cliff. Assuming that hurdle is cleared, 2013 is one step closer to a stable and sustainable growth rate for autos, with volume above the 15 million unit mark."