DETROIT (Reuters) -- U.S. auto sales are rebounding after Superstorm Sandy cut sales in late October and early November, and this month should show a 12 percent increase from a year before, consultancies J.D. Power & Associates and LMC Automotive said today.
November auto sales have been rising each week, and there are signs that December will be a strong sales month to end the best year for U.S. auto sales since before the 2008-2009 economic downturn.
On a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, November sales are seen at 15 million new vehicles, LMC and J.D. Power said in today's report.
That would be the highest monthly sales rate of the year, topping the 14.94 million rate for September.
The last time the U.S. sales rate hit 15 million was in February 2008 when it finished at 15.52 million, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
Total light vehicle auto sales for November are expected to be 1.11 million vehicles, up 2.2 percent from October, the consultants said.
The U.S. fleet of vehicles is about 11 years old, and the need to replace aging vehicles has been cited as a reason for increased auto sales all year.
"The irrepressible need and willingness of consumers to replace aging vehicles is stronger than the effects of natural disasters and fiscal turmoil both here and abroad," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.
"A sustained recovery pace in auto sales is expected over the next six months, barring any fiscal cliff hangover, but the medium-term forecast is still dependent on more pronounced economic activity and growth."
LMC Automotive also maintained its 2012 full-year forecast of 14.4 million vehicles, which would be a 12.5 percent rise from 2011.
The auto industry has been steadily recovering since 2009, when U.S. sales hit a 28-year low of 10.4 million vehicles.
Through October, U.S. consumers purchased 11.99 million light vehicles, a 14 percent gain over the same 10 months of 2011, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
Automotive News staff contributed to this report.
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