"Yes, we see auto sales getting stronger next year," said Mark Wakefield, managing director at the consulting firm AlixPartners. Wakefield, who runs the firm's automotive practice in the Americas expects U.S. sales to increase by another 300,000 vehicles next year. "We see sales next year at 17.4 or 17.5 million vehicles."
Six years into this current up-cycle for the auto industry, he said he believes many of the ingredients that fueled the steady growth are still driving people into buying a new car, truck or SUV.
- Employment: Despite softer numbers in September, unemployment is expected to remain relatively low.
- Old cars/trucks need replacing: The average age of vehicles in the U.S. is still climbing. It's currently over 11 years, according to IHS Automotive.
- Gas Prices: Most project them to remain relatively low, giving consumers a sense they have more money in their monthly budget.
Wakefield admitted conditions could change quickly. He pointed to interest rates as a perfect example. Right now, the average auto loan interest rate is 4.77 percent, according to Equifax, but that will likely change in 2016.
"Unless something dramatic happens with the Fed and interest rates, we see sales remaining strong," he said.