SOUTHFIELD, MI – Research firm Polk is expecting total light-duty vehicle sales to rise to a total of 15.3 million in 2013, which is a 6.6% increase over sales in 2012. Polk said new-vehicle introductions will also rise, with 43 launches planned. This is a 50% increase over the number of new models launched in 2012. Beyond the new vehicle launches, Polk expects 60 vehicle redesigns, largely due to increasing retail showroom traffic and new registrations.

"Polk expects continued recovery in the industry in 2013 and 2014, a positive sign for the U.S. economy," said Anthony Pratt, director of forecasting for the Americas at Polk. "The auto sector is likely to continue to be one of the key sectors that lead the U.S. economic recovery, however, we don't expect to realize pre-recession levels in the 17 million vehicles range for many years," he said. "However, our baseline forecast hinges on Washington's ability to draft a budget plan that will avoid $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases."

Key segments to watch in 2013 include the large pickup truck segment, which Polk said will likely grow due to a number of significant new vehicle launches in that segment for MY-2013 and MY-2014. Polk also expects the mid-size sedan segment to continue to lead and grow in terms of market share in 2013. Other segments to watch include compacts and subcompacts, which Polk expects to grow.

One segment Polk is not optimistic about is the hybrid group, with the organization predicting only a small improvement over its current market share of 2.9%. Polk's reasons for this prediction include the large price difference between hybrid and traditional models, and the high number of traditionally powered vehicles that get similar mileage.