If three major hurricanes, $3-a-gallon gasoline and a Delphi Corp. Chapter 11 filing couldn't stop the industry from nearly reaching 17 million U.S. light-vehicle sales in 2005, almost nothing will in 2006.
Unless, of course, housing values collapse, interest rates go up, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors run out of money for incentives or home heating costs go through the roof.
That's the word from analysts surveyed last week for Automotive News' annual look ahead for 2006.
"I think it will be a carbon copy of this year -- a little under 17 million in sales," says Dana Johnson, chief economist at Comerica Bank in Detroit.
"Next year will be a repetition of this year, right around 17 million," says Edmund.com's chief economist Jesse Toprak.
"Flat to down," says the Chrysler group's Van Jolissaint.
Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Ford Motor's director of corporate economics and strategic issues, won't be pinned down to a precise forecast until January. But she says conditions seem right for gross domestic product to grow by 3.0 to 3.5 percent, which would put light-vehicle sales on track for another year like this one.