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Forecasters see slow auto-sales recovery through 2011

Tue, 05 Oct 2010

U.S. auto sales in 2010 and 2011 will continue to crawl -- not walk or run -- out of last year's recession, according to forecasters at the Auto Industry Hot Topics Conference here.

“It's going to be a long crawl out of this, but we're crawling in the right direction,” said David Wyss, chief economist for Standard & Poor's, which co-sponsored the conference along with J.D. Power and Associates. Both are units of McGraw-Hill.

“People ask me all the time why they're not feeling better if the recession is over,” Wyss said. “A recession is over from an economist's viewpoint when you've hit bottom. But when you've hit bottom, you're on the bottom. Why would you be feeling good when you're at the bottom?”

Standard & Poor's forecasts 2010 U.S. light-vehicle sales of about 11.4 million units. That would be up about 9.6 percent from 2009 sales of 10.4 million. S&P expects 2011 U.S. light-vehicle sales of about 12.8 million. That would still be below 13.2 million in 2008, let alone 16.1 million in 2007.

Robert Schulz, Standard & Poor's managing director, said big negative factors remain, especially high unemployment expected through 2012 and uncertain housing prices. Whether consumers continue to shy away from large-ticket purchases is another question.

J.D. Power and Associates recently shaved its 2010 U.S. light-vehicle forecast to 11.5 million, from 11.6 million, said Jeff Schuster, J.D. Power executive director of global forecasting. That would be an increase of about 11 percent from 10.4 million in 2009.

The J.D. Power forecast was as high as 11.8 million earlier this year. For 2011, J.D. Power expects U.S. light-vehicle sales of about 13.1 million.

By James Henry- Automotive News