General Motors looks optimistically on the industry in the year’s second half as it reports a 6% uptick in August sales, saying an improving housing market and new government data showing stronger-than-expected new-vehicle deliveries so far in 2012 supports its view.

GM sold 240,520 cars and trucks last month, compared with 218,479 year-ago, posting gains by three of its four brands, according to WardsAuto data. The data is adjusted for 27 selling days vs. 26 in August 2011.

“We see slow, gradual, consistent growth,” says Kurt McNeil, GM’s chief sales analyst, suggesting the industry might finish the year at the high end of the auto maker’s light-vehicle forecast of between 14.0 million and 14.5 million units.

Seasonal factors supporting second-half truck sales, most significantly an improving housing market, provide much of the optimism, McNeil says in conference call earlier today to discuss GM’s August results.

But a slew of new products from the industry, as well more readily available consumer credit and still-unquenched pent-up demand, also underpin GM’s outlook.

A stronger car portfolio, containing vehicles such as a new Chevy Malibu and all-new Cadillac ATS, boosts GM’s view of its own business in the next four months.

“We’re bullish,” McNeil says.

McNeil’s comments come on the heels of a new report from the U.S. Federal Reserve projecting year-to-date auto sales at 14.3 million units, reversing earlier assumptions industry sales were turning down in the second quarter and the recovery may sputter. The new report adjusts for seasonal factors.

“We think this gives a more encouraging picture of the industry, and it is more consistent with our previous expectations of market development, especially in the retail market,” McNeil says.

Strong retail demand would support a long-term recovery for auto sales, whereas recent higher commercial and government purchases are more cyclical trends.

The industry also appears on its way to a stronger-than-expected August, with the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate pacing at 14.6 million units ahead of some auto makers reporting results.

GM sees the best results of the month coming from its Buick brand, where the new Verano small car pushed the portfolio to an 8.2% gain and posted its ninth consecutive month of sales increases since launching.

Sales of the Buick Enclave large cross/utility vehicle, while down 8.4% for the month, still provided 5,125 deliveries just weeks ahead of a redesigned model hitting showrooms.

Buick also turned in its best retail month since September 2007, and with 18,000 total units sold posted its best August since 2006.

GM’s volume Chevrolet brand accounted for the highest unit sales in the month, with deliveries up 7.1% to 169,978. Brand sales chief Alan Batey credits the uptick to GM’s big television advertising play in the Olympics broadcast.

“We’re delighted with the results of investments there,” Batey says, expecting the trend will continue through the fall as GM advertises strongly to support Chevy’s new products.

Sales of the Chevy Cruze increased 14.7% to 25,975 units. Cruze’s August performance was some 10,000 units stronger than July, and the car eclipsed 400,000 units sold since its introduction in 2010.

The Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle sold 2,831 copies for its best month since launching in 2010. Sales went over the 20,000-unit mark for the year during the month, but the car continues to underperform early expectations.

Cadillac sales rose 7.2% to 14,704 units, helped by 2,158 deliveries of the new-for-’13 XTS large sedan, an 8.3% gain by the SRX midsize CUV to 5,203 units and 2,189 copies of the Escalade large SUV.

Sales at GMC were flat at 37,838 units, although the Terrain CUV saw deliveries increase 11.8% to 9,143 and Sierra large pickup sales jumped 5.4% to 14,495.

McNeil says to expect higher-than-normal inventories of GM fullsize trucks, currently tracking in the 200,000- to 220,000-unit range, as the auto maker keeps stocks high ahead of production shutdowns to retool for a next-generation model.

jamend@wardsauto.com