Forecast: March U.S. Vehicle Sales Will Hit Nearly Five-Year High

'We are looking at a record-breaking month for many manufacturers in March.'

Building on the momentum of January and February, U.S. light-vehicle sales in March will reach their highest level since August 2007, according to a forecast by TrueCar.com.

The website expects sales of light vehicles -- including fleets -- to be 1.42 million units, up 13.7% year-over-year and up 23.3% over February on an unadjusted basis.

"We are looking at a record-breaking month for many manufacturers in March, with Hyundai (IW 1000/27), Nissan (IW 1000/29) and Volkswagen (IW 1000/10) expected to have their highest unit sales ever in the U.S.," said Jesse Toprak, vice president of market intelligence for Santa Monica, Calif.-based TrueCar.com.

The website also sees Chrysler Group, Ford Motor Co. (IW 500/6), General Motors Co. (IW 500/5), Honda Motor Co. (IW 1000/23) and Toyota Motor Corp. (IW 1000/5) posting "extremely strong" numbers in March, Toprak said.

The auto industry's "stronger than expected recovery" has prompted TrueCar.com to up its full-year sales forecast by 3.6%, from 14 million units to 14.5 million units, Toprak noted.

TrueCar.com expects fleet and rental sales to make up 19.5% of total industry sales in March.

The website predicts that average incentive spending per unit will be approximately $2,440 in March, which would mark a 1.7% drop year-over-year and a 1.5% decrease over February.

"Consumers who wanted a new vehicle, but were cautiously sitting on the sidelines, are entering the market and feeling more confident about buying," said Kristen Andersson, senior analyst at TrueCar.com. "Automakers have hit the sweet spot this month with lowered incentives and double-digit sales increases, which signifies the underlying strength in consumer demand."

TrueCar.com bases its forecast on transaction data, along with current and historical factors such as sales, inventory, incentives, fuel prices and macroeconomic data.

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