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Auto sales spike is the start of 'a big cycle turn,' strategist says

  • New auto sales jumped in September and that momentum should continue, strategist Eric Ross told CNBC on Tuesday.
  • Major automakers posted higher U.S. new vehicle sales in September as consumers in hurricane-hit areas of the country replaced flood-damaged cars.
  • However, that's just part of the story, said Ross.

New auto sales jumped in September, and that momentum should continue, strategist Eric Ross told CNBC on Tuesday.

Major automakers posted higher U.S. new vehicle sales in September as consumers in hurricane-hit areas of the country replaced flood-damaged cars.

Up to 500,000 cars were damaged or destroyed during Harvey and 200,000 cars during Irma, according to industry estimates.

However, that's just part of the story, said Ross, the chief investment strategist at Cascend Securities.

His firm has also seen an increase in people researching the purchase of new automobiles since May. That online activity is typically done three to four months before the purchase occurs, which means new car sales may increase in late 2017 or early 2018, Ross explained.

"This is just the start of what we think is going to be a big cycle turn," he said in an interview with "Closing Bell."

Analysts and industry consultants had predicted hurricanes Harvey and Irma would provide automakers with their first monthly gains in 2017. Sales had been weak after a strong run since 2010 that culminated in record sales of 17.55 million units in 2016.

James Albertine, senior research analyst at Consumer Edge Research, believes the boost in sales will be short-lived.

"Any kind of hurricane or replacement demand could be borrowing from the future and bringing it forward to today," he told "Closing Bell."

He said there is a lull right now in the new vehicle technology cycle.

"A lot of consumers are waiting for autonomous or electrified tech, which is probably two or three years out," Albertine said.

However, he said the late-model used-vehicle supply is ramping up significantly.

"A 2015 model, which is very similar to a 2017 or '18 model in terms of tech, for a 20 percent to 25 percent discount, it's the value purchase," he noted.

Ross isn't buying that consumers are waiting for higher-tech autos.

"If you need a car right now, are you going to wait three years for an autonomous car?" he said.

— CNBC's Crystal Lau and Reuters contributed to this report.

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