October auto sales rate: 18.2M, up from 16.6M a year ago

October auto sales rate hits 18.2M: Autodata

The auto sales rate in October came in at 18.2 million cars compared to 16.6 million a year ago, Autodata said Tuesday.

This is the first time since 2000 when the sales rate has been at more than 18 million vehicles over back-to-back months.

A Reuters poll of 45 economists showed expectations for a seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate of 17.7 million vehicles for October.

According to the Autodata report, total industry unit deliveries increased 13.6 percent compared to last October.

Bob Smith, executive director of the Los Angeles New Car Dealers Association, told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Tuesday he's not surprised by how strong sales numbers are because the industry itself anticipated having a good year.

"Cars are affordable, the employment figures support it, and the industry is building the best and safest cars with the most innovative technology. So we're very excited and we're very bullish," Smith said.

However, car prices are consistently increasing and if interest rates go up, consumers might slow down their car purchasing.

To combat this, Smith said more people are turning to automobile leasing.

"People are confident that the long-term rates are going to stay low and with that we see longer loans and that's the way people are able to go about reaching for little bit more car," said Smith. "How that's going to impact the ultimate price of cars going forward, we'll just have to see."

U.S. economic data suggest consumer spending lost momentum at the end of the third quarter, with consumption in September posting its smallest increase in eight months. Personal incomes also barely rose that month.

— CNBC's Phil LeBeau and Ritika Shah, along with Reuters contributed to this report.