Toyota and Honda's return to full production last month is boosting US auto sales back near the pace reached before Japan's earthquake.
September light-vehicle sales, to be released tomorrow, probably rose to a 12.8 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, the average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
That would be the fastest pace since April, when lost output caused by Japan's tsunami crimped supply of parts and finished cars.
"Recovering inventory levels have helped to bring buyers back into the market," said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates.
Jesse Toprak, who develops forecasts at TrueCar.com, went so far as to title his latest report What Recession? as the auto rebound defies consumer confidence that is near a two-year low.
Toyota has said it expects to reverse monthly US sales declines beginning this month, and Honda is adding overtime shifts at two Ohio plants. Better supply also probably meant incentives rose from the lowest in almost six years.
"The big story in September was better inventory and favourable pricing" for consumers, said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at Edmunds.com.
Sales declines at Toyota and Honda contributed to the US auto sales pace slowing from a 13.1 million rate averaged in the year's first four months to as low as 11.6 million in June, according to researcher Autodata.
Ramping up production
Toyota, ramping up production of the redesigned Camry sedan, may say sales dropped 15 per cent, the average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
The automaker's global production increased for the first time in 12 months in August.
Toyota shares fell 0.5 per cent to 2,688 yen (Dh128.00) in Tokyo at the close of Tokyo trading. Nissan gained 0.4 per cent, while Honda fell 1.4 per cent.
Sales may decline 6.1 per cent at Honda, the average of five analysts' estimates, after deliveries slid 20 per cent or more in each of the past four months.
The Tokyo-based automaker is scheduling overtime shifts at its Marysville and East Liberty assembly plants in Ohio, Ron Lietzke, a spokesman, said on Wednesday.
Still in third
Toyota slipped behind Ford to third in US sales this year up to August, which was the first month in the past year that its global production increased. The automaker is still recovering and may say sales dropped 15 per cent, the average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, leaving it in third in US rankings again.
"With the launch of the new Camry, October should be even better," said Paul Atkinson, who operates Toyota dealerships in Bryan and Madisonville, Texas. "We're selling as fast as they're coming off the truck."