car buyers

The last we heard, the auto industry was booming. Sales are healthy and recovery from the multi-year slump brought on by the global economic meltdown of 2008 is well on its way, with domestic sales projected to reach as high as 14.5 million vehicles. We even heard a rumor that Ford would soon be installing cash machines in its executive lavatories that dispensed well-worn twenties.

Okay, so that last part isn't true. But the first is also suspect, according to new forecasts from analysts. As reported by Reuters, LMC Automotive, formerly a branch of JD Power, has revised its 2012 prediction down to 14.3 million vehicles, matching that of rival consultant Polk. LMC also cut its forecast for 2013, from 15.2 million to 15 million, though it does expect the U.S. auto industry to be back at 2007's 17-million-unit level by 2017.

Other projections are even more conservative, according to the report. Sean McAlinden, chief economist for the Center for Automotive Research, is hedging his bets, pointing out that housing usually recovers first after a recession, while this year upwards of 40 percent of economic growth has been auto-related. CAR's forecast calls for 2012 sales to stop at 14.2 million and next year's totals to hit just 14.6 million units.