DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. auto sales in July will be the strongest for the month since 2006, and rise 9 percent from last year, automotive industry consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive predicted on Thursday.
For the fifth consecutive month, the seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate will top 16 million new vehicles, at 16.6 million, the consultancies said.
LMC raised its full-year 2014 forecast for new auto sales to 16.3 million, from 16.2 million.
U.S. auto sales were 15.6 million vehicles last year.
Jeff Schuster, head of forecasting at LMC, said the auto industry recovery continued to outpace that of the larger U.S. economy.
Consumers were expected to spend about $36 billion on new vehicles in July, said John Humphrey, senior vice president at J.D. Power.
Industry consultant Edmunds.com agreed that U.S. auto sales would reach their highest for July in eight years, and forecast an annualized sales rate for the month of 16.8 million vehicles.
"July's performance is the clearest indication yet that retail buyers are driving market demand," says Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell. "Shoppers are looking past news of recalls and rising gas prices and they're finding affordable interest rates and other incentives that make it easier to buy a new car."
Edmunds forecast that among individual automakers, Chrysler Group LLC, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will gain the most in July sales, up 22 percent, while Volkswagen AG will bring up the rear, down 1 percent.
General Motors Co, which has recalled about 25.5 million vehicles this year in the United States, will see a sales rise of 11 percent. Edmunds said it sees overall industry sales going up at about the same rate.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)