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Auto Sales: Flat For The Next Year And A Half?

CNBC.com

This morning BMW's president for North America told me something that might surprise more than a few people in the auto industry. Jim O'Donnell expects sales to stay flat through the end of next year. Think about that. Another 15 months of lackluster sales.

If Jim is right, it paints a sobering picture for BMW, Mercedes, and the other luxury auto companies. It also could mean a very rough next year and half for the Big 3. Detroit's automakers need sales to start picking up as soon as possible, preferably before the second half of next year.

Why does Jim expect it to take so long for a rebound?

His view is that whoever wins the election, it will take at least a year before any stimulus from the winning party kicks in. In other words, don't expect the election to change consumer confidence anytime soon.

Ultimately, this malaise is all about consumer confidence. When the average joe feels more comfortable signing up for a 3, 5, or even 7 year loan, then auto sales will come back.

Later today: the latest on August sales.

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Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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