) -- U.S. auto sales continue to increase this month and the sales growth is now expected to continue into 2013, albeit at a slower pace.

J.D. Power projected September light-vehicle sales to rise 11% to 1.2 million units. For the full year, the firm projected sales of 14.3 million while projected sales of 14.4 million. For 2013, and J.D. Power affiliate LMC Automotive forecast sales of 15 million.

"2013 will likely be the first year of non-double-digit sales growth since the recovery began in 2010," said economist Lacey Plache, in a prepared statement. "Economic uncertainty at home and spillover effects from slowing economies abroad will continue to slow the pace of American economic growth, including car sales."

Standard & Poor's said it sees similar trends.

"Subdued consumer sentiment has not yet dented healthy growth in demand for the auto industry in the U.S., but some other markets are growing more slowly, and European sales are falling year over year," said S&P economist Beth Ann Bovino, in a prepared statement.

Growth is tepid in the U.S. and even slower in Europe, S&P said. Meanwhile, "the auto markets in the emerging markets, particularly China and India, have huge growth potential, but as demand is directly linked to overall economic activity, it will decline if the economy weakens further, as we expect it will in 2012," the firm said.

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In a new report -- "The Global Auto Industry Holds Steady Amid Economic Turbulence" -- S&P noted that the auto industry has recently withstood a series of crises, including the worst economic slowdown since 1929, an earthquake in Japan and floods in Thailand, and now the eurozone debt crisis. Nevertheless, "we expect U.S. auto sales in 2012 to rise to their highest level since 2008 as a result of consumers replacing their aging vehicles, as well as better credit availability," Bovino said.

U.S. auto sales totaled 12.8 million in 2011, 11.6 million in 2010, 10.3 million in 2009, 13.2 million in 2008 and 16.1 million in 2007.

J.D. Power said U.S. September retail sales are expected to rise 15% from the same month a year earlier. Retail sales are the most accurate reflection of consumer sentiment, the firm said. In the sub-compact, compact and midsized segments, retail sales are expected to gain at least 25%. Similar trends in August meant that four


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-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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Ted Reed