U.S. auto sales are on pace for the best showing since 2007 and a third straight year of at least 10% gains, only the fourth such streak since the Great Depression, as more-confident buyers return to showrooms.
Bloomberg reported that automakers are adding overnight shifts and cutting workers’ vacations to meet rising demand for light vehicles.
Sales this year may reach 14.3 million cars and light trucks, equal to the first-quarter pace, according to estimates from 14 analysts compiled by Bloomberg. It would be the best full year since 16.1 million in 2007. The same analysts in January were expecting sales this year of 13.6 million before Toyota Motor Corp. and others exceeded projections.
“Even if we stay where we are, it’s a pretty good year,” said Brian Johnson, an industry analyst at Barclays Capital in Chicago, who is predicting full-year U.S. sales of 14.4 million.
Pent-up demand, an improving economy and loosening credit has spurred the better-than-estimated auto sales and helped General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC to first quarter profits that beat analysts’ forecasts even while deliveries fell in Europe.
First-quarter deliveries in the U.S. ran at the strongest pace since the same months in 2008, when sales started at an annualized rate of 15.4 million before collapsing to a full-year tally of 13.2 million, said Kevin Tynan, a Bloomberg Industries analyst based in Skillman, N.J.