The best month since December 2007.
That was the most optimistic forecast before today's release of June auto sales figures. And that sunniest of predictions turned out to be on target.
U.S. sales of light vehicles rose 9 percent last month. The industry finished the first half with an 8 percent gain, keeping a fourth-straight annual double-digit increase within reach.
The seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate came in at 15.98 million.
It has been 66 months since the industry saw a SAAR that high: 15.82 million in December 2007.
Reading today's reports, you would think that automakers have returned to a golden era. But accounts of that December five and a half years ago were filled with impending gloom.
An ugly cap to the worst year in a decade. A housing market in collapse. Oil prices soaring. Consumer confidence in tatters. Executives spoke repeatedly of "headwinds" and the looming prospect of recession.
Now, the SAAR is close to 16 million again. This time, it's amid surging pickups and soaring small cars and talk of "tailwinds."
Replacement demand and "historically low interest rates irrespective of the conversations surrounding the Fed" are fueling continued growth for the auto industry, Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said today. "The tailwinds continue to be strong" and are "pretty forceful," he said.
Those include a rebounding housing market, falling gasoline prices and consumer confidence near a six-year high.
Among the highlights:
--For the first time in two decades, each of the Detroit 3 gained share in the first half of the year.
--Double-digit June increases at four brands -- Subaru, Porsche, Cadillac and Dodge -- meant double-digit increases in each of the first six months of the year.
--Much has been made of Chrysler Group's 39-month streak of monthly sales increases. But the longest run is now 44 months -- at Mercedes-Benz. The last time the Daimler AG brand saw a monthly U.S. decline: September 2009.
--Japan's Big Three -- Toyota, Nissan, Honda -- posted increases of 10 percent or more for the first time in the same month this year.
--Chevy's Volt plug-in hybrid is outselling Nissan's pure-electric Leaf by a total of 16 units at the half, 9,855 vs. 9,839. But the Leaf's sales have more than tripled this year, while the Volt is up 12 percent.
--Five brands were down for the month and the first half: Smart, Mitsubishi, Lincoln, Kia, and Volvo.