Forecasters expect the U.S. car market to reach 14 million in 2012 image

Forecasters expect higher auto sales in 2012 in the United States due to new products, rising employment, better credit availability, and the need to replace aging vehicles.

Sales predictions from 11 independent analysts range from 13 million light vehicles (Wells Fargo Securities) to 14 million (Morgan Stanley). The average outlook of 13.6 million units would be 6 or 7 percent higher than 2011 sales, likely to reach 12.7 to 12.8 million units at the end of the year.

Although all analysts expect as many bad economic news in 2012 as this year, they say U.S. auto buyers don’t scare as easily as they did three years ago, when the financial crisis hit. Consumers have become less likely to change car-buying decisions based on economic news, said Kelley Blue Book’s Alec Gutierrez. “The American consumer has seen so much gone wrong. If they have to buy a car, they will,” the analyst was quoted as saying by Automotive News.

LMC Automotive’s Jeff Schuster agrees economic ups and downs won’t have a great influence on 2012 auto sales, forecasting 13.8 million units. He expects a sharp European recession to trim 2012 U.S. light-vehicle sales by no more than 300,000, while significant U.S. economic growth might add 200,000 units.

IHS Automotive, LMC Automotive, NADA and Polk all predict North American production will also rise from 13 million this year to 13.8 million in 2012, about the same increase as U.S. sales.