Despite rising gasoline prices and supply disruptions related to the disaster in Japan, it’s likely that U.S. automobile sales this year will go up faster than analysts’ previous estimates because of the improving job market.
The average of 18 analysts' estimates surveyed by Bloomberg indicated that total sales of cars and light trucks may increase to 13 million in 2011. Last January, Bloomberg’s survey of 17 analysts showed an average estimate of 12.9 million.
Light-vehicle sales in 2010 increased to 11.6 million from 2009 -- its lowest sales in 27 years. Autodata Corp. said that auto sales ran at seasonally adjusted annual rate of 13.1 million in the first quarter – the fastest pace since the quarter that ended in June 2008.
Demand had remained high even with gasoline prices climbing to its highest level in more than two years and even as Japan's earthquake disrupted production and reduced inventories of several models.
But these setbacks cannot bring down sales as U.S. Labor Department figures show that the U.S. economy created jobs for six straight months through March, with payrolls increasing by 478,000 in the first quarter.
In addition, the unemployment rate dropped to a two-year low of 8.8%. Seven analysts had raised their estimates for full-year auto sales since the start of the year. Meanwhile, IHS Automotive lowered its estimate to 12.9 million vehicles, from 13.3 million in February.