U.S. auto sales may hit 14 million by mid-2012 image

November may be the strongest month of 2011 for auto sales, as consumers replace aging cars and trucks and as dealer lots offer a wider selection of cars, says a study released on Thursday.

If current trends persist, the market could reach an annual pace of more than 14 million by the second half of 2012, according to a forecast by J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive quoted by Reuters.

The figure would represent at least a 10 percent jump from expected 2011 sales, which the same analysts now estimate at around 12.7 million vehicles. “As long as there is not an external shock or economic setback, the selling rate could be stable above the 14-million-unit level during the second half of 2012,” said Jeff Schuster, LMC senior vice president of forecasting.

Total passenger car sales are expected to rise 8 percent in November compared with a year earlier, according to data from 8,900 dealers during the first half of the month. Year-to-date figures are at 13.4 million, up from 13.2 million sales in October.

U.S. auto sales fell in the spring and early summer due to concerns about the prospect of another economic downturn and supply disruptions after the March earthquake in Japan. However, in the last three months, sales figures have risen as some consumers can no logner delay vehicle purchases. The average vehicle on U.S. roads is almost 11 years old.