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1st Quarter 7:55

Auto sales may be best in 40 Years

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - US auto sales are on pace for the best showing since 2007 and a third straight year of at least 10 percent gains, only the fourth such streak since the Great Depression, as more confident buyers return to showrooms.

Automakers are adding overnight shifts and cutting workers’ vacations to meet demand. Sales this year may reach 14.3 million cars and light trucks, equal to the first-quarter pace, according to estimates. It would be the best full year since 16.1 million in 2007. The same analysts in January were expecting sales this year of 13.6 million before Toyota Motor Corp. and others exceeded projections.

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Pent-up demand, an improving economy and loosening credit has spurred the better-than-estimated auto sales and helped General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler Group to first-quarter profits that beat forecasts even while deliveries fell in Europe.

First-quarter deliveries in the United States ran at the strongest pace since the same months in 2008, when sales started at an annualized rate of 15.4 million before collapsing to a full-year tally of 13.2 million, said one analyst.

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