Light vehicle sales in the US look set to end the year on a strong note according to analysts.

JD Power reports that December's new vehicle retail selling rate remains 'robust near the close of 2012, with potential buyers unfazed by the current level of economic uncertainty generated by the fiscal cliff negotiations'.

JD Power says that December new vehicle retail sales are expected to come in at 1,152,500 units, which represent a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 12.2m units. December's selling rate remains strong and is 500,000 units higher than the expected 2012 full-year rate, JD Power says.

JD Power also highlights strong luxury-vehicle sales in the retail sector and says that luxury share in December – at 16% - is the highest in 2012 and the highest since December 2009, when it reached 16.2%.

"Luxury sales always do well this time of the year, but December is turning out to be a great month," said John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. "New and re-designed vehicle introductions, along with enhanced incentive activity, have been key drivers of the recovery in the luxury market."

Total light vehicle sales in December 2012 are projected to increase 14% from December 2011, with volume at 1,358,600 units. 

Based on strong sales in November and early December, LMC Automotive is edging up its 2012 forecast for total light vehicle sales in the United States to 14.5m units from 14.4m units and maintaining the forecast for retail sales at 11.7m units. The forecast for 2013 remains 15m units for total light-vehicles and 12.2m for retail sales, but represents a slower growth rate of four percent from 2012.

"The US light vehicle sales market continues to be a bright spot in the tremulous global environment," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. "The only major roadblock ahead for the US market is the fiscal cliff. Assuming that hurdle is cleared, 2013 is one step closer to a stable and sustainable growth rate for autos, with volume above the 15 million unit mark."

Edmunds also forecasts that the US light vehicle market will hit 14.5m units in 2012. “December will be the icing on the cake for 2012 – it’s a strong close for a year that had significant auto sales growth throughout,” says Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell.  “Along with the momentum of the improving economy, December car sales have been helped by compelling advertising, generous deals from most automakers, and the rush of demand unexpectedly and unfortunately caused by Hurricane Sandy.” 

North American production

Light vehicle production in North America is up 19% through November 2012, compared with the same period in 2011. Volume with one month remaining in 2012 is nearly 14.4m units, an increase of 2.3m units, compared with 2011, LMC says.

As 2012 draws to a close, LMC Automotive projects the 2012 North American production forecast to finish with nearly 15.4m units produced, a 17% increase from 2011. For 2013, the North American production forecast is expected to reach 15.8m units, a modest three percent rise from 2012, with further upside potential contingent on the pace of demand in the first half of 2013.