DETROIT - Three years ago, U.S. car buyers started trickling back into showrooms after largely sitting out the recession. That trickle has turned into a flood.
From owners of revitalized small businesses that need to replace aging pickups to new hires who need a fresh set of wheels for the daily commute, increasingly confident buyers pushed auto sales back to pre-recession levels in the first six months of this year. Sales in the January-June period topped 7.8 million, their best first half since 2007, according to Autodata Corp. and Ward's AutoInfoBank.
The outlook for the rest of 2013 is just as strong. The factors boosting sales - low interest rates, wider credit availability, rising home construction and hot new vehicles - will be around for a while, and experts are hard-pressed for answers when asked what could slow things down.