U.S. auto makers are expected to deliver 1,273,000 light vehicles in August, according to a WardsAuto forecast, lifting the seasonally adjusted annual rate to its second-highest for the year and making it the industry’s best August since 2007.

The forecast calls for an August daily sales rate of 47,137 cars and light trucks over 27 selling days, up 14.7% from year-ago, which would lift the monthly SAAR to 14.37 million units, slightly ahead of June’s 14.34 million but less than the year’s high-water mark of 14.43 million set in February.

The year-to-date SAAR through July was 14.1 million units, but many forecasters continue to call for full-year sales to exceed 14.3 million LVs.

The WardsAuto forecast was influenced, in part, by mid-month reports of steady or better-than-expected sales from a number of auto makers, pointing toward a continuation of an overall upward trend.

Other economic signs also point to an improved SAAR in August and the coming months. These include the Commerce Department’s report that new-home sales climbed 3.6% in July and jumped 25% over the past 12 months. Sales of existing homes rose 2.3% from June to July and 10% over the past 12 months.

The overall unemployment rate increased slightly to 8.3% in July, but the economy added some 163,000 jobs during the month.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index rose more than three points in July, and the group’s short-term Expectations Index climbed 5.7 points, with consumers indicating rising expectations that both business and employment conditions will improve in the next six months.

And pent-up demand from the recession and early recovery years continues to play a role in the auto industry consistently outperforming the rest of the economy in 2012.

The WardsAuto forecast calls for the Detroit Threeauto makers to account for 44.2% of August LV deliveries, up one share point over July.

General Motors’ August result likely will be hampered by lower-than-usual fleet sales, with the auto maker’s expected 222,000 deliveries equating to a 2.1% drop in daily sales compared with year-ago. The resulting 17.4% market share would be GM’s third-lowest ever.

Ford should finish in second place this month, 6.5% ahead of year-ago, for a 15% share, while Chrysler’s expected 11% rise in DSR will give the auto maker nearly 12% of LV sales.

Toyota and Honda will continue to show impressive gains over their stock-depleted year-ago sales slumps caused by production disruptions due to the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan.

Toyota will threaten Ford’s No.2 status with the forecasted 183,000 deliveries, equating to a 14.4% share, as strong retail sales counter the auto maker’s nearly nonexistent fleet presence this month.

Honda, on the strength of improved inventories and aggressive end-of-model-year sales incentives, should see a very strong month. WardsAuto looks for the No.2 Japanese auto maker to sell more than 135,000 LVs in August, up 58% on a daily basis over prior-year.

The forecast also calls for Nissan’s share to fall slightly, from a higher-than-expected 8.6% in July to 8.2% on 104,000 sales.

With both the Detroit Three and the Japanese auto makers increasing their collective share of the market, Korea’s Hyundai and Kia, as well as some European brands, are expected to see slight declines in share.

Hyundai-Kia combined should account for 9.1% of LV sales this month, down from 9.9% in July, on deliveries of 116,000 cars and light trucks.

Projected U.S. LV sales for August would bring the year-to-date total to 9.67 million units, up 14.64% from like-2011.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com