New Orleans, Louisiana – U.S. light-vehicle sales will fall just short of 13 million units in 2009, but enhanced credit availability for customers and dealerships should strengthen sales over the year, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).

The statement was made by NADA chief economist Paul Taylor, speaking at the NADA Convention & Exposition in New Orleans.

“The economy should improve slightly and in the third quarter of 2009 start to see positive economic growth to help reach sales of at least 12.7 million units of light vehicles,” Taylor said.  He reported that falling house values in 22 states are related to a decline in new-vehicle registrations, and that house prices must stop falling for car sales to improve. The four states with the highest year-to-date declines — Nevada, California, Florida and Arizona — also have among the highest percentage drops in new-car registrations.

Bankers must also increase lending for sales to rebound, Taylor said. Recent credit developments will help restore securitized dealership floorplan financing, including the expansion of the term asset-backed Securities Loan Facility and the establishment of GMAC as a bank holding company.

Taylor also said that previously higher gasoline prices created nationwide shortages of small cars in the summer, which affected dealership sales.

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