Edmunds.com estimated that, so far in August, new cars are selling at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of about 12.1m units.

“Compared with July, sales look essentially flat. Prior to all the financial market gyrations, I was expecting August sales to increase over July, triggered by improved supply, lower prices and model year-end sales events,” said CEO Jeremy Anwyl in a column. “Sales could still pick up as the month progresses but, considering the uncertainty in the marketplace, even if we end up at July’s sales pace I would have to see it as good news.”

Data for the first week of August showed a retail sales pace of approximately 880,000 new cars, equating to a retail SAAR of about 9.9m units, compared to July’s retail SAAR of 10.1m.

Senior analyst Ray Zhou said: “Fleet sales are usually a bit stronger in August so total sales will be around 1.08m units if the current pace holds.”

“The downgrade of US debt has not negatively affected car buying conditions. While the risk to new vehicle sales from falling consumer confidence is undoubtedly higher as a result of the downgrade, favorable buying conditions – increased vehicle availability, increased incentives and continued low interest rates – should offset much of the debt downgrade’s effect on consumer confidence,” added chief economist Lacey Plache.