Although cautioning that financial concerns outside of the U.S. still could have a negative impact on our country, the latest Kelley Blue Book Market Intelligence study forecasts that 2012 new-vehicle sales here will surpass 13.3 million units, up from 12.8 million in 2011. The projection is based on expectations of continued moderate U.S. economic recovery and rising demand from consumers who need to replace their aging vehicles. Last week, automotive research firm R.L. Polk released a survey that pegged the average age of the U.S. private car/truck fleet at a new all-time record 10.8 years.

The new year is starting out on an optimistic note, with total sales volume for January projected at approximately 900,000 units -- up 9.8 percent from January 2011. Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book believes that trend will continue. "Our analysts have produced a regression model that explores unemployment, housing, consumer confidence and seasonal patterns to assist with our sales forecast for the year. Given current market conditions and our expectations for 2012, we believe sales will continue to improve at a conservative pace in 2012."

With respect to the likely early front-runners, Gutierrez noted: "We project GM, Ford and Toyota to lead new-vehicle sales in January, as each manufacturer relies on the success of recent redesigns to keep their sales momentum moving forward. General Motors will be led by strong performances from the Chevrolet Silverado, the hot-selling compact Cruze, and the Equinox crossover, while later in the year a new redesign for the Chevrolet Malibu also will help boost sales for GM. Ford will look to the redesigned Focus, all-new Fiesta and class-leading F-150, to drive sales in January. The 2013 Escape and highly anticipated Fusion redesign also will help keep Ford's sales momentum strong. 

The Kelley Blue Book Market Intelligence sees Toyota as a strong third, as it aggressively works to counter its sales slide in 2011 that resulted from lingering effects of the unintended acceleration recalls in 2010 and inventory shortages resulting from last year’s devastating earthquake in Japan. While the redesigned Yaris, Camry and all-new Prius V should help deliver a boost this month, Gutierrez sees two other likely bright spots for the automaker. "The sought after Scion FR-S and ultra-efficient Prius C also should help bring excitement back to Toyota's lineup, something that has been lacking for several years."

"Consumers seeking reliable resale values should also consider Toyota since they were recently named top brand at the 2012 Kelley Blue Book Best Resale Value Awards because of its industry leading five-year residual values.  If that weren't enough to highlight Toyota's strength, visitors to are already giving us strong signals of Toyota's expected rebound this year."



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