Monthly car sales projected to rise 15 percent

December is shaping up to show the U.S. industry's strongest year-over-year sales increase of what's been a dismal 2009.

Expect a 15 percent spike in new vehicle sales in December, powered by a retail surge, according to projections released today by industry forecaster J.D. Power and Associates.

“The market is continuing to improve, with the relative strength of December sales supporting a year-end rally," Gary Dilts, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power, said in a statement.

December would be just the third month of 2009 with a sales increase. The others, in August and in November, had tiny gains. The August advance stemmed from the U.S. cash-for-clunkers incentive program. November and December benefited from comparisons to a market that collapsed at the end of 2008.

Total December sales are projected at 1.03 million vehicles, up from 895,152 a year earlier. J.D. Power expects December retail sales to jump 20 percent to 839,600. Fleet sales should drop by 2.5 percent, or 5,000 vehicles. AutoWeek

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