Just ahead of the release of the official data, analysts forecast October auto sales reached an annual rate of about 15.5 million cars and light trucks, a big step from the 14.2 million units seen a year ago.
The fiscal decisions remain a threat to the auto sales outlook though, as the U.S. Congress decided to skip the budget roadshow earlier this month, re-opening the federal government and putting off another likely confrontation over the budget until next year.
“Light-vehicle sales volume north of 16 million units in 2014 is well within reach,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.
Meanwhile, the government shutdown doesn’t seem to have had much effect on October auto sales, except for a few regions where federal employees are highly concentrated, analysts said.
Raw data sees unit sales for the month expected at around 1.2 million, up from about 1.1 million in October 2012. The Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate, or SAAR, is an estimate for the full year based on one month’s worth of sales, allowing for seasonal variation in auto sales.
That 16 million mark is a magic threshold for the U.S. auto industry. Auto sales last crossed the 16 million mark in 2007 before the recession. Beating that would help bury memories of 2009, when both General Motors and Chrysler underwent bankruptcy restructuring, and Ford was very close.
Before that, U.S. auto sales hit a then-record 16 million back in 1986, which lasted until 1999. The current U.S. record is 17.4 million, set back in 2000. However, that level of sales was sustained by price discounting and dumping units into daily rental fleets.