Despite some disappointing results from the two leading Detroit automakers, final figures for September U.S. car sales are expected to be strong, thanks to pent-up demand among American consumers.
General Motors reported only a 1.5% increase in sales from year-earlier levels on Tuesday, while Ford Motor sales slipped 0.1%. Both results were a bit below forecast.
But Chrysler Group reported that sales jumped 12% from a year earlier, helping it to top forecasts, and keeping the industry on track from one of the strongest sales months in more than four years. Other automakers, including Toyota Motor and Honda Motor, were due to report results later Tuesday.
Analysts are forecasting that industrywide sales for the month reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 14.5 million. That would be up from a 13.1 million sales pace a year earlier, and would be comparable to the August car sales pace that was the best result since the government's "Cash for Clunkers" program caused a spike in sales three years ago.
Some analysts are forecasting sales could even reach the highest level since early 2008, before the gas price surge and the meltdown in financial markets later that year caused a deep, sustained drop in auto sales.
The demand from car buyers who have gone longer than normal with their current cars and are finding it easier to get new car loans is helping to drive the strong sales. Consumer confidence has also been on the rise, helping to boost sales.
"Retail sales in early September were 15% higher than they were a year ago, which is reflective of a healthy market," said John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates.