Auto sales have grown steadily since the U.S. and its auto industry performed a synchronized swan dive. But, unfortunately for automakers, those numbers have risen at a painfully slow pace.

The 'slow and steady' trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, but The Detroit News reports that both Ford and General Motors see continued sales increases in 2012. Ford economist Jenny Lin thinks that sales should progress beyond the 12.5 million to 13.5 million units forecasted for 2011. Lin added that a lack of new car sales over the last few years has led to a quickly aging fleet of vehicles on U.S. roads. In fact, the average vehicle on our roads is 10.6 years old, an all-time high.

GM chief economist Mustafa Mohatarem seems to agree, adding that demand is high and sales would be higher if Honda and Toyota could ramp up production. Mohatarem says the two Japanese automakers are still struggling to fill dealer lots in the wake of Japan's March earthquake and tsunami. As a consequence, he believes some buyers are sitting on the sidelines until they can pick up the Toyota or Honda of their choosing.

As for what the new yearly sales figure is projected to be, Mohatarem sees U.S. new vehicle sales hitting 16 million units as soon as 2014 or 2015.

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