If November's seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate of 16.4 million -- the best in nearly seven years -- sounded good, this month should look even better.
One analyst, Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley, said the industry light-vehicle SAAR could hit 17 million for December, given widespread credit availability, rising inventories and the pace at which consumers flocked to dealerships for Black Friday sales.
"We think this is a recipe for December to see a Thanksgiving hangover early in the month with a furious Christmas holiday finish which could bring U.S. SAAR as high as 17 million units, depending on how juicy the deals are," Jonas wrote in a report last week. "It's a great time to buy a car."
The industry SAAR last touched 17 million in July 2006. A 17 million rate in December would result in total sales for 2013 of about 15.73 million.
Sales totaled 14.2 million through November, 8 percent higher than the first 11 months of 2012. Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said in an interview last week that he estimates sales will finish 2013 at 15.7 million, about 100,000 units higher than the company previously anticipated.
Whether or not sales get to a 71/2-year high this month, the industry is poised to close out the year with considerable momentum, after it appeared to weaken in the early fall. Analysts say that strength should carry into 2014, when they expect a SAAR of at least 16 million to become the norm on a monthly basis.
"All the key drivers in the market are still going in full force," said Lacey Plache, chief economist for Edmunds.com. "The longer we go without having major economic dips, the more confident people have become."