Data analyzed by J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive indicates that new light-vehicle retail sales are experiencing further recovery and strength through the first half of November and are projected to come in at 791,900 units, representing a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 11.3 million units – the highest monthly selling rate in three and a half years.

“Retail light-vehicle sales in November are outperforming expectations on a month-to-date basis, providing good news as 2011 comes to a close and the focus starts to shift to 2012,” noted John Humphrey, J.D. Power’s senior vp-global automotive operations. “The improving performance of the past three months suggests that the current momentum, primarily driven by replacement demand and improvements in vehicle availability, is not an aberration.”

J.D. Power and LMC, which work together through a strategic alliance to share data and produce monthly new-vehicle retail sales forecasts, expect overall light-vehicle sales in November to top 975,600 units; 8% higher than the same month in 2010.

Fleet sales are expected to decrease by 6% compared with November 2010, but will account for 19% of total sales, the companies said.

After a solid October and expectations for a strong November, LMC is increasing its forecast for 2011 to 12.7 million units from 12.6 million units for total light-vehicle sales and to 10.3 million units from 10.2 million unit) for new retail light-vehicle sales.

However, LMC is maintaining its forecast for 2012 at 13.8 million units for total light-vehicle sales and 11.2 million units for retail light-vehicle sales.

“The upward forecast revision to 2011 represents the first increase to the forecast all year and tempers the cloud of uncertainty that has been over the automotive market for several months,” said Jeff Schuster, LMC’s senior vp-forecasting at LMC Automotive. “The current recovery pace appears sustainable into 2012. As long as there is not an external shock or economic setback, the selling rate could be stable above the 14-million-unit level during the second half of 2012.”

On another topic, light-vehicle production volume in North America has increased by 920,000 units, or 9% through the first 10 months of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010, and both firms said Detroit’s “Big Three” – Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC and General Motors – are witnessing a nearly 14% increase in year-to-date production through October, while European OEM year-to-date production rates in North America are up 38%.

As a result, the 2011 North American production outlook remains on track for 12.9 million units, an increase of nearly 9% from 2010, according to J.D. Power and LMC.