Steven Ratner, the ex-Car Czar, has a healthy prediction for US automotive sales this year. Ratner believes the magic number will be 14 million for 2011. In 2012, the number will climb to 15 million, per Ratner's estimates. Why the optimism?

Ratner sees shrunken fleets, improved business conditions in Detroit and signs of sustained recovery in the US economy. Prior to ousting Rick Wagoner at General Motors, the automaker would only be able to make a profit in an environment when 16-17 million cars were being sold. Now they have been reworked and profits can be produced from 10-11 million sales per year. Ratner believes that Chrysler is following the same pattern as well.

If Steven Ratner's estimates are true, it would be a strong sign that our economy is heading in the right direction. For what it's worth, the National Automobile Dealer Association analysts are predicting a more conservative climb to just under 13 million units sold in 2011. Who will be correct? Who knows... but if either prediction comes true, we'll be in better shape than we were just a few years ago.

[Source: Ward's Auto | Image: Neilson Barnard/Getty]

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