Although the general consensus among analysts and auto makers has been that demand would recede slightly this year after a record 17.54 million in 2016, LMC Automotive now says the market might not have peaked after all.
Jeff Schuster, LMC's senior vice president of forecasting, said he expects U.S. sales to rise 0.1 percent to 17.6 million. Retail sales are projected to be flat at 14.1 million, meaning the overall gain would be driven by a modest increase in deliveries to businesses and other fleet buyers.
"After an overheated close to 2016 and the increased likelihood of deregulation and fiscal stimulus from the Trump administration driving the economy higher," Mr. Schuster said in a statement, "we now expect 2017 to be another record year in U.S. auto sales, though there is a lot of runway before the year is complete. While there are many variables to consider this year, one area of caution is the large number of lease maturities repopulating the used-car market."
Light trucks, which accounted for a record 60.7 percent of the U.S. market in 2016, continue to gain steam. Trucks represented 63.3 percent of sales in the first 16 selling days of January, according to J.D. Power, which partners with LMC to forecast sales.