The auto industry has always been cyclical, but in recent years, a whole new industry cycle has emerged.
Call it the pessimism cycle — the annual belief, usually expressed very early in the calendar year, that auto sales will have fallen off by several hundred thousand vehicles by year end. Then that pessimism fades away as vehicles continue to sell and sell until it looks at the end of the year like the market might be flat, or even up.
As it did last year and the year before, the pessimism cycle has returned to its late-year upswing as the industry recorded a seasonally adjusted annual selling rate of 17.05 million in November. It appears to be in line to finish the year having sold 17 million-plus vehicles in the U.S. for a record fifth consecutive year.
Once again, the strong finish has so far materialized despite broad earlier predictions by analysts and industry executives alike that sales likely would settle back into the mid- to high-16 million range.