America is roaring toward record auto sales

Another day, another increase in production at a U.S. auto plant—and with it, a rising expectation that Americans could buy a record number of new vehicles next year or by 2016.

A 2015 Ram 1500
Source: Chrysler
A 2015 Ram 1500

"We believe the industry can go over 17 million next year," said Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford of the Americas. "We're forecasting between 16.8 and 17.5 million next year. We're preparing for that."

For Ford, that preparation means adding shifts and jobs at its plants around the U.S., including in Claycomo, Missouri.

The automaker is hiring another 1,200 workers and a second shift at its Kansas City assembly plant so that it can build more Transit vans.

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Meanwhile, up in Warren, Michigan, Chrysler is increasing production at its truck plant to keep up with demand for Ram pickups. So far this year, Ram sales are up 22.3 percent.

17 million in sales next year?

2014 (est) 16.5 million
2013 15.6 million
2001 17.1 million
2000 17.4 million

Record sales at higher prices

The surge in auto sales this year is noteworthy given that transaction prices have risen to well above $30,000 on average. In fact, the average price paid at an auto dealership this year has risen $676 to $31,610, according to Truecar.com.

The increase is driven by consumers who are willing to pay for the latest technology and features in new vehicles. In particular, electronics and connectivity are being requested by buyers heading into showrooms.

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"There's a lot of new technology going into these vehicles, and more importantly, the operating costs are getting better for people. People are willing to pay up for those attributes," Hinrichs said. "We believe there's still upside, especially with SUVs and trucks."

Reality for driverless cars
Reality for driverless cars   

Truecar.com estimates that the average price paid at a dealership for a large pickup truck now exceeds $40,000.

That price is expected to get a bump higher when Ford rolls out its all new F-Series pickup later this year. With much of the new truck being built with lighter weight aluminum, the new F-Series is promising greater fue leconomy. By some estimates, the new F-Series could get close to 30 miles per gallon.

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