STRONG SEPTEMBER: U.S. auto sales rose 13 percent to nearly 1.2 million in September. Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen saw the biggest increases.
THE FUEL: Low interest rates, aging cars, rising consumer confidence and new versions of popular models like the Honda Accord and Ford Escape all drew buyers to dealerships.
WHAT'S NEXT: Analysts predict full-year U.S. sales of 14.3 million, up from 12.8 million last year but still below the peak of 17 million in 2005. General Motors expects industry sales to continue their slow recovery for the rest of this year and the first part of 2013.