EDITOR'S NOTE: The non-inclusion of a line-item for "other automakers" in the chart accompanying this article resulted in the 2012 projected total being inaccurate. The error has been corrected in both the chart and in text.
LAS VEGAS -- In more buoyant times the wisecrack went something like this: "Add up all the automakers' sales projections for the year and you're looking at a market of 20 million units."
Toting up all of the 2012 forecasts won't get you to 20 million, but you'd be well north of 14 million -- or way more than any company or analyst says total industry sales actually will be in 2012.
Is irrational exuberance making a comeback?
American Honda is aiming for a 25 percent increase this year; Nissan North America, 18 percent; and General Motors, Toyota Motor Sales and Chrysler Group all believe their brands can gain around 15 percent. All those internal targets easily outpace overall industry growth estimated to be 8 percent.
Of course, such brand-level confidence can be costly for the industry at large. Volume targets drive production plans, and if things don't pan out the result could be an oversupply of vehicles and an ugly incentives war.
"The exuberance likely underestimates the power of Honda and Toyota when they are at full strength," said Group 1 Automotive CEO Earl Hesterberg.
But those bold predictions also could suggest that industrywide forecasts are too conservative.
The consensus is that sales will be 13.6 million to 13.8 million this year, up from 12.8 million in 2011. But the combined internal targets of 15 automakers comes to 14.3 million. And that does not account for all the small brands, which should push the total to 14.4 million or higher.