US Auto Sales in December to top 13 million: J.D. Power image

New-vehicle retail sales in December are projected to come in at 1,033,700 units, up 9 percent compared to December 2010, J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive said on Thursday.

Total industry sales — including both retail and fleet sales — are expected to top an annualized pace of 13.4 million in December.

“For the third straight time, light-vehicle sales are posting strong selling rates at the close of the year,” said Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive.

“Next year, the automotive industry will look to build upon the strong finish to 2011, but the real test in 2012 will be weathering a summer selling slowdown and posting a full year of a progressive recovery.”

U.S. auto sales have been trending higher since June, despite the still-weak employment and housing markets.

North American light-vehicle production has increased more than 9 percent through November 2011 from the same period in 2010. More than 1 million additional units have been built so far in 2011.

In addition, recovery efforts are nearly complete for Honda and Toyota after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and flooding in Thailand limited their ability to maintain a normal production schedule.