ORLANDO -- Powered by the improving economy, U.S. sales of cars and light trucks likely will rise 14 percent this year to 11.9 million vehicles and will go higher next year, the chief economist of the National Automobile Dealers Association predicts.
Paul Taylor said his forecast exceeded the consensus estimate of 11.5 million from other economists mostly because used-car prices are rising in response to diminished supply, making new cars more appealing.
He also cited improved fuel economy in predicting increased sales across a broad range of vehicles.
"We believe in this economy, and we believe higher mileage in a lot of cars will motivate sales as well," Taylor said here at the NADA convention.
He said he expects 2011 sales to top this year's but wouldn't be more specific.
Taylor forecast a 3 percent increase in gross domestic product.
Consumer confidence will improve only with a decline in unemployment, he said, and a lack of floorplan financing for some brands continues to be a problem.
"None of this is progressing as fast as we'd like," Taylor said.
U.S. sales plunged to 10.4 million units in 2009 from 13.2 million in 2008 and 16.1 million in 2007.