UPDATE 1-JD Power-LMC raise 2012 US auto sales forecast

Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:01am IST

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* October auto sales seen rising 11 percent from yr ago
    * North American 2012 production forecast raised
    * October sales seen at 14.8 mln on adjusted annualized rate


    DETROIT, Oct 25 (Reuters) - J.D. Power and Associates and
LMC Automotive on Thursday raised the forecast for 2012 U.S.
auto sales to 14.4 million vehicles, from the previous forecast
of 14.3 million, as the auto industry continues to recover from
its downturn three years ago.
    The consultancies also forecast October U.S. auto sales at a
seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 14.8 million vehicles,
down slightly from a 14.9 million rate in September.
    Total light vehicle U.S. sales for October should be about
1.13 million, up 11 percent from last October, the two
consultancies said.
    "It is becoming clear that the U.S. automotive market is
finally approaching a stage of a more natural level of demand,
which has been accelerated by increasing consumer confidence and
a need to replace aging vehicles," said Jeff Schuster, senior
vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.
    Since 2009, when auto sales dipped to 28-year lows of 10.4
million vehicles, sales have risen steadily, to 11.6 million in
2010 and 12.8 million last year.
    The two consultancies maintained next year's U.S. auto sales
forecast at 15 million vehicles.
    LMC Automotive also increased its forecast for 2013 North
American auto production to "approach" 16 million vehicles for
the first time since 2002.
    North America auto production rose 20 percent in the first
nine months of this year, LMC said.
    Strong demand for new vehicles along with foreign automakers
making more cars in North America are driving increased
production, but LMC warned that meeting the growth will depend
on supplier investment, including more workers.
    U.S. retail auto sales -- not including fleet sales to
volume customers -- is forecast to be 943,200 vehicles, up 13
percent from last October, the consultancies said.
    "Fleet sales in October are expected to represent 17 percent
of total sales, which is slightly below the 5-year average of 19
percent for October and indicative of automakers continuing to
manage production levels," the consultancies said.
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