Will Labor Day push sales rate past 16 million?

Can a calendar quirk help the U.S. car sales rate crack the 16-million sales barrier?

We're about to find out.

This year the auto sales-rich Labor Day weekend falls in the August counting period, even though Labor Day is on Monday, Sept. 2. That gives this month five weekends, along with an extra weekday (Tuesday, Sept. 3), and it may be enough of a boost to push the seasonally adjusted annual selling rate to 16 million.

The U.S. auto industry is in its fourth full year of recovery since the 2009 low of 10.4 million units, but no month has yet had a 16 million SAAR since November 2007, a string of 68 months. The number in itself is not magic, but it has a psychological impact because U.S. light-vehicle sales topped 16 million each year from 1999 through 2007.

SAARs the past nine months have topped 15 million, creeping up to 15.9 million in June. But not 16.

But LMC Automotive and partner J.D. Power and Associates are forecasting an August SAAR of 16 million. Less optimistic, Kelley Blue Book sees 15.6 million and Wells Fargo's Richard Kwas expects a range of 15.5 to 15.6 million.

Still, all of those are well above last August's 14.5 million SAAR.

So maybe August will finally crack the 16 million barrier. Maybe we'll have to settle for just another strong result and the 27th straight month of growth.

But if getting 16 million out of the way is important to our psyches, August is the best near-term shot at it. August's gain will be September's loss.

You can reach Jesse Snyder at jsnyder@crain.com -- Follow Jesse on Twitter: https://twitter.com/spartyjesse

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