Despite slower November sales, the nation's franchised new-car dealers will sell a record 17.5 million new vehicles in 2000, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.

"Dealers are on track to break 1999's record by more than half a million vehicles," said NADA chief economist Paul Taylor. "The outstanding performance is testament to an extremely efficient retail network and has been powered by net household wealth that nearly doubled in the past five years." Total net wealth for US households in 1995 was $US12.3 trillion. It climbed to 22.4 trillion by the middle of this year.

Taylor said that while sales have slipped toward the end of the year, dealers will likely see relatively strong sales for the foreseeable future. "In historic terms, 17.5 million vehicles is uncharted territory. It's important to remember that sales of 14, 15 or 16 million vehicles in future years would still indicate a healthy auto industry," Taylor said.