Analysts at Edmunds forecast that an estimated 13.6m new cars and trucks will be sold in the US in 2012. They believe that pent-up demand will drive the market up despite concerns over the slow pace of US economic growth.

The forecast anticipates a solid increase over 2011 new car sales, which could come in as high as 12.8m vehicles when December comes to a close.

“With annual sales still far below the level achieved prior to the last recession, there’s plenty of indication that pent-up demand is far from spent,” says Chief Economist Dr. Lacey Plache. “Improved selection and loosening credit conditions are helping to entice the millions of buyers that are waiting to jump back into the market.”

From January until April, the industry will see the tail end of the current “mini-bubble” of auto sales generated by car buyers who steered away from high prices and poor selection at dealer lots last summer following the Japanese earthquake. Of those months, sales are likely to peak in March, a popular car-buying month, Edmunds says.

At that point, Edmunds says, seasonal factors will resume as a key influence on sales in 2012, resulting in more volatile sales on a monthly basis as opposed to the flat line monthly sales experienced this year from May through November. Specifically, next summer’s sales will be influenced in May by graduation-related purchases and again in August by the summer sell-down of current year models, then popular year-end sales events should continue to keep the recent trend of strong November and December sales performances well intact, Edmunds says.

Next year won’t be without obstacles, though, Edmunds acknowledges. Dr. Plache says that the continued slow pace of the economic recovery and uncertainty in the months leading up to the US Presidential election may constrain sales growth. Threats of a European recession and a Chinese economic slowdown will also pose a risk to growth in the auto market, and if these or other negative events shake the marketplace, new vehicle sales momentum could weaken.