Forecast: US Auto Sales up 9 percent in December image

December U.S. auto sales likely rose 9 percent from the previous year, 30 analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters indicated, to 13.6 million vehicles sales on an annualized basis.

In addition, North American light-vehicle production will rise 5 percent during the first quarter of 2012, forecasters say, on strengthening sales and a continued recovery from natural disasters in Asia.

A total 1.47 million vehicles had been sold as of Nov. 30 — already surpassing the 1.46 million sold in all of 2009 — the worst sales year for the industry since 1998, according to data released by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

Currently, the average car on the road is 10.7 years old, Edmunds says. That compares with 9.8 years old in 2007.

New technology, safety features and easier access to credit are likely to entice buyers in 2012, Edmunds says.

And greener car technology won’t necessarily drive sales growth on its own.

Finally, there may be reason to ramp up the celebrations a bit this holiday season. LMC Automotive’s projection had 1,033,700 Americans buying new cars in December. That would be the first month to top a million sales since a fleeting spike created by the Cash for Clunkers program in 2009.