Car sales predicted to gradually rise

Last year saw just 8.6 million new car purchases, approximately half of the record for yearly sales in this decade. Sales this year appear to be growing, however, and will most likely reach 11 million, according to research conducted by J.D. Power and Associates.

The last two months have seen even more rapid growth, MSNBC reports. The annualized rate calculated from October and November’s sales would bring 2010’s sales up to 12 million.

What will happen with the new car market in the future is uncertain, though IHS Global Insight and J.D. Power are both predicting steady but modest growth through the next few years.

Several other factors can reportedly drive demand. New mandatory safety features may increase manufacturer costs, while new technological advances like Ford’s SYNC infotainment system may make consumers more likely to upgrade their vehicles for the better entertainment technology. If prices get too high due to new tech or safety features, however, consumers may be driven back to the used car market.

Drivers who aren’t sure if they can afford a new car in light of changing market conditions can use a car payment calculator to determine how to set their budget and expectations.