Daily sales of light vehicles in January will trail December’s rate, but a forecast 37,400 DSR will boost volume 9.8% over like-2011, lifting the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate to a 29-month high, WardsAuto forecasts.

The forecast calls for U.S. auto makers to deliver 897,000 cars and light trucks over 24 selling days this month. The DSR equates to a 13.9 million-unit SAAR, the highest since June 2008, not including August 2009, which was skewed by the Cash-for-Clunkers incentive program.

The called-for December-to-January DSR falloff would be slightly better than trend, which has averaged 21% in recent years. December had 27 selling days.

The WardsAuto forecast calls for the Detroit Three to move some 400,000 units, accounting for 44.5% of LV sales, with daily volume up 7% over like-2011. However, a great disparity exists between the auto makers’ anticipated performances.

Chrysler should see daily sales rise some 35%, benefiting from a favorable year-ago performance, while General Motors, which offered generous retail incentives in January, is expected to suffer a dip of more than 8%.

Ford should perform slightly better than the industry in the month, with deliveries up 13.2%.

WardsAuto is calling for Toyota to grab 14.3% of the market as it continues to address pent-up demand for its vehicles while rebuilding inventory. The auto maker is forecast to sell 128,000 LVs in January, an 11% increase over year-ago.

Honda’s outlook is more complicated. The company has endured inventory problems for eight months and has yet to show it can increase production to meet demand. The auto maker accounted for 8.5% of U.S. LV sales in December and its share likely will remain near that level.

Nissan deliveries are expected to climb more than 13% from year-ago, giving the company a 9% cut of the market, close to even with the combined projected sales of Hyundai and Kia.

European brands saw their December market share slip to 9.6% from November’s record 10.6%. They likely will remain below 10% this month, as luxury leaders BMW and Mercedes replenish dealer stocks after year-end selling sprees.

While this month’s SAAR likely will be higher than any level recorded in 2011, January traditionally is one of the market’s slowest months. The historically low volume means small changes have an outsized affect on the adjusted annual selling rate.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com