18 million sales in 2018? Now that's some epic growth!

The auto industry is in quite the growth spurt if Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy is right.

In his annual "Car Wars" report, Murphy predicts that U.S. light-vehicle sales will climb to 18 million units in 2018, up from roughly 16.2 million expected this year and 10.4 million in recession-ravaged 2009.

So if we do get to 18 in '18 the market will have grown about 75 percent in less than a decade. We haven't seen that kind of surge in new-vehicle sales since the giant leap forward from the late 1950s to the late 1960s, when sales basically doubled.

"Companies have had enough time to recover from the trough in sales in 2009 and ramp up product investment," says Murphy.

He says much of that investment will be plowed into the red-hot crossover category. Murphy figures that crossovers will account for nearly 30 percent of new-model introductions from 2015 to 2018, highest of any segment.