Auto sales in November could get pushed into record territory, fueled by a retailing surge powered by Black Friday, according to estimates by several analysts.
Ford Motor (F) - Get Report , which earlier in the month announced a broad "Friends and Neighbors" discount to shore up its U.S. market share and take advantage of strong demand, said it was dropping the program in favor of conventional discounts, such as cash rebates.
Car-buying platform TrueCar (TRUE) - Get Report estimated November vehicle sales, which will be announced next week, will be 3.9% higher than a year ago, pushing its total to more than 1.35 million cars, light trucks and crossovers.
"U.S. auto sales are now clearly on the path to set a record in 2015, with volume we haven't seen in 15 years," said Jeff Schuster, vice president of LMC Automotive, in a statement. "Even with the strong possibility for the Fed to increase interest rates, growth should continue into 2016, with sales expected to reach 17.8 million units."
LMC said it expected the industry's 2015 unit sales to beat the record 17.4 million set in 2000. LMC's latest industry forecast is 17.5 million for this year.
"Consumers are excited about Black Friday promotions, and these month-long events appear to be resonating with car buyers. Brands that advertised early, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Jeep and Ram, are expected to outperform the industry," said Eric Lyman, TrueCar vice president of industry insights in a statement.
Ford dealers told the Wall Street Journal that some shoppers were confused by the automaker's discount program, which established no-haggle prices that were billed as roughly equal to those Ford extends to employees, suppliers and other insiders.
Ford sales through October are up 5.5% this year, in an industry whose sales have risen 5.8% during the same time period. Among Detroit-based automakers, General Motors (GM) - Get Report also lost a bit of U.S. share, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) - Get Report gained.
Bob Shanks, Ford's chief financial officer, told analysts last week in New York that the level of incentive spending to drive sales in November was lower than in October and about the same as a year ago. Some analysts are concerned that automakers may be chasing sales with deep discounts and easy credit that foreshadows a collapse in demand.
But forecasters insist that demand should continue through 2016, extending the rising sales of the past consecutive six years and unprecedented growth in the auto industry's modern history. One reason for this optimism is the depth of the drop in 2008-2009, which caused many drivers to postpone vehicle replacement.
Less than a decade ago, November was known in the industry as a typically slow sales month, said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis for Edmunds.com, in a statement. "But in recent years, car dealers have joined other retailers to embrace Black Friday as a big sales driver," Caldwell said. "Since 2010, November has delivered one of the three best" seasonally-adjusted sales rates of the year.
Doron Levin is the host of "In the Driver Seat," broadcast on SiriusXM Insight 121, Saturday at noon, encore Sunday at 9 a.m.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.