Nissan Motor’s North American sales chief, who launched the Juke there today, said he now expects US industry sales to edge closer to 11.5m new cars and trucks this year as consumers show more signs of buying confidence.

“There is something happening out there,” Brian Carolin, Nissan’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, told Dow Jones Newswires. “We are seeing that pent up demand coming through.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the largest US auto retailer, AutoNation, said an 18% increase in new vehicle sales helped drive revenue to US$2.8bn for its recently finished quarter, up $400m from a year ago.

Dow Jones said sceptics have pinned the consumer upturn on the heavy incentives being offered by Toyota as it attempts to rebuild trust after its recalls but Carolin said the increased automotive buying confidence goes beyond the incentives and the sluggish economic data.

“There is a disconnect between the economics, such as the unemployment rate, and how people are feeling,” he said.

The so-called incentive war stirred in March by Toyota will also be short-lived, allowing auto makers to keep control of discounts this year, Carolin said.