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September: Cleared to ascend

Aha. September brings us a fresh sign of growth.

It seems silly to get picky about a U.S. auto sales year that is running 15 percent ahead of 2011. But here I am. Maybe the red-hot first quarter spoiled me, but 2012 has felt like it has been stuck in a rut since then. The seasonally adjusted annual selling rate, or SAAR, has been twitching between 13.9 million and 14.5 million from January through August.

So September’s 14.9 million SAAR, especially because it was unexpectedly strong, is a sign of a potential change in the arc of the business year.

To me, this sales year has looked like a textbook example of the principles of aerodynamics, the four primary forces of airplane flight. Currently, we can cast greater credit availability as lift, a force helping sales volume to overcome the weight of the lousy economy. Pent-up demand becomes our forward thrust and Congress and its looming year-end fiscal cliff is, most definitely, drag.

With our airplane imagery, the year started with a strong rate of climb. Too steep, in fact and we had to push the nose down a bit to keep from stalling. Since May we’ve been trying to coax some altitude out of our craft.

Maybe September is a signal the industry can resume climbing toward cruising altitude.

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