Ford says demand for trucks has followed an increase in new home construction since the start of this year. Also, many truck owners would rather buy a new, more fuel efficient truck than repair an aging one, said Ford's U.S. sales chief Ken Czubay. Eighteen percent of trucks traded in for new Fords are more than 10 years old now, he said, up from 13 to 14 percent a year earlier.
May's annualized sales pace dipped to 13.8 million cars and trucks, which is the lowest level since December, according to Autodata Corp. But it was still strong enough that the forecasting firm LMC Automotive raised its 2012 outlook to 14.5 million, up from 14.3 million.
That pace is above the dismal sales of 10.4 million in 2009. But it remains below what would be normal in a healthy economy, said Jeff Schuster, LMC's senior vice president of forecasting. The monthly pace should be between 15.5 million and 16 million based on the number of households and the country's population, Schuster said.
Schuster said sales should get closer to that number next year, when LMC is predicting sales of 15.2 million.
"As long as there isn't a shock or a further deterioration of the economy on a broader scale, I think auto sales can power through right now," he said.
AP Economics Writer Paul Wiseman contributed from Washington.
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