The U.S. light-vehicle daily sales rate in August should remain nearly flat with July’s DSR, but with three extra selling days monthly sales should rise to nearly 1.47 million units, a new WardsAuto forecast predicts.

Market conditions are relatively unchanged from July, with robust consumer demand capped by tight inventories and overall sales dampened somewhat by below-trend fleet orders.

August’s forecast of a 52,334-unit DSR (over 28 selling days, including Labor Day weekend) represents a 10.4% improvement on year-ago (27 days) and a 0.1% drop from July (25 days).

The resulting 15.7 million seasonally adjusted annual rate would match the July SAAR but fall short of June’s 67-month high of 15.8 million units.

Change to the daily sales rate from July to August has averaged just 1% over the past eight years.

Consumer sentiment appears to be holding steady. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index dipped slightly from June to July, but remained significantly higher than year-ago levels.

In a separate survey by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan, consumer confidence rose for the third consecutive month in July to its highest point in six years.

The U.S. Commerce Dept. reported consumer spending, excluding cars, fuel and building materials, rose faster in July than in any month since December, with overall retail sales coming in just below analyst expectations.

Meanwhile, the economy added 162,000 jobs last month, dropping the unemployment rate to 7.4%, the lowest rate since December 2008.

U.S. auto makers entered August with a healthy 56-day supply of LVs, but inventory should tighten up, falling to 54 days by the end of the month. Moreover, pockets of inventory shortages likely will slow sales of some popular models.

Industry sources report fleet deliveries continue to track below seasonal expectations, with government fleet purchases falling off across the country and sales to rental companies slowing this month as well.

General Motors and Ford are expected to be hit particularly hard by slow fleet sales, with Ford continuing to feel the pinch of low inventories on some of its most popular models, including the Focus and Fusion.

The WardsAuto forecast calls for GM to sell 262,000 LVs in August, accounting for 17.8% of the market, while lifting the auto maker’s DSR 4.7% from year-ago.

Ford is expected to sell 212,000 LVs this month, a 6% improvement over year-ago’s DSR, good for a 14.5% share.

The 169,000 deliveries forecast for Chrysler in August represent a 10% increase in daily sales from prior-year, giving the auto maker an 11.5% share.

The Detroit Three combined should account for 43.8% of U.S. LV deliveries in August.

Toyota’s forecasted 213,000 sales, reflecting a 9.3% rise in DSR, would make the auto maker the No.2 volume leader, ahead of Ford, for the second straight month.

If that were to happen, it would be the first time the Japanese auto maker has outpaced Ford in consecutive months since November and December 2009.

Honda’s daily sales are expected to climb 18% in August, compared with year-ago, to 161,000 units.

The WardsAuto August forecast would bring year-to-date LV sales to 10.6 million units, up 9.2% from like-2012.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com