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Auto sales were strong in October as buyers grabbed fully loaded pickups, SUVs

Russ Mitchell, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

Compounding the issue for carmakers is that "there are plenty of cars to go around," Gutierrez said. More cars are coming off lease, while quality and durability have improved, meaning plenty of desirable used and near-new cars are available.

Wage growth is hardly the only factor going forward. The auto industry is on the edge of radical change as computers begin to take over driving duties from humans and many millennials show a preference for ride-sharing and car-sharing over car ownership.

Krebs noted that even if auto sales are down somewhat this year, "it shouldn't be lost that this is still a pretty strong market." Analysts expect between 16.9 million and 17.2 million vehicles will be sold in the U.S. this year, down from 17.6 million in 2016.

"If we do hit 17 million this year, it will be only the fifth time that's ever happened," Krebs said.

October sales continued what has become a steady move away from sedans and toward pickups and SUVs. One of the fastest-growing segments is compact or crossover sport utility vehicles, or CUVs, such as the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. CUVs now hold 18 percent of passenger vehicle sales, the largest single segment of the market.

According to Kelley Blue Book, sport utilities in all size categories represent about 35 percent of the market, up from 23 percent in 2007.

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