Light-vehicle sales in 2011 should be more than 10% higher than 2010, boosted by a December expected to account for the year’s second-highest monthly seasonally adjusted annual rate.

WardsAuto’s forecast calls for U.S. auto makers to deliver 1.23 million light vehicles this month, which has 27 selling days, a 15% gain over November’s daily sales rate, calculated from 25 days. WardsAutoalso projects December will see an 8% increase from like-2010, which had 27 selling days.

A December total of 1.23 million LVs translates to a monthly SAAR of 13.4 million units, second only to November’s 13.6 million.

December sales are susceptible to above-trend swings as year-end incentives are rolled out and last-minute fleet deals are inked. However, at forecast levels, December would be the year’s second-largest volume sales month behind March.

WardsAuto calls for the Detroit Three to account for 46.5% of December LV sales, with deliveries up 11.7% to 571,000.
General Motors is expected to improve its sales rate 6.3% from year-ago, with Ford raising its DSR 7.1%. Chrysler should see continued double-digit growth compared with its lackluster 2010 delivery rates, with December sales expected to soar more than 30% over year-ago.

An improved inventory situation at Toyota should allow the auto maker to meet more of the pent-up demand for its vehicles. WardsAutois looking for Toyota to sell 158,000 LVs in December, good for a market share of 13%, but an 11% drop in DSR from year-ago.

Honda’s inventory is in flux because October flooding in Thailand scuttled an anticipated late-fall production build-up.

WardsAutolooks for Honda to increase its daily sales 38.6% over November’s rate, which still lags year-ago by 3.1%. The auto maker is expected to capture a 10% share.

Nissan deliveries should rise 3.6% over year-ago, for an 8% take of the market, falling behind Hyundai-Kia, which is expected to claim an 8.5% share.

European brands notched another market-share record in November, taking 10.6% of all U.S. light-vehicle sales. They likely will maintain at least that level in December, with BMW and Mercedes pushing hard in the luxury segments, while Volkswagen continues to make strides in the mainstream market.

December’s forecast sales would bring the full-year 2011 tally to 12.75 million units, a 10.1% improvement over the 11.55 million cars and light trucks delivered in the U.S. last year.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com