They've been weak in 2017 and could suffer another blow if Trump gets his way with trade policy.
Note: This forecast has been revised to reflect the impact of Hurricane Harvey.
After seven months of decline, auto sales are projected to see year-over-year gains in August for the first time in 2017 when a new industry report comes out on Friday.
Edmunds.com forecasts that 1.53 million cars and trucks will be sold in the United States in August — an 8.2% increase from last month and a 1.3% increase from August 2016.
“While any kind of sales lift after seven months of declines is encouraging, automakers still have a long road ahead to have a strong close to the year. It’s a small step in the right direction,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis for Edmunds.
Sales of cars and trucks have seen record highs in the last few years, thanks to a combination of rising employment, low interest rates and historically low gas prices.
At the New York Auto Show in April, a Toyota executive acknowledged it would be hard to continue to increase after these peaks, saying the company expected sales to decline this year to 17 or 17.2 million units after a record high of 17.5 million in 2016.
The Edmunds forecast for August auto sales is slightly more conservative, estimating a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 16.6 million for 2017.
Toyota saw the biggest sales volume increase of any auto manufacturer, up 11.6% from August 2016, followed by Honda and Volkswagen, increasing 7.9% and 7.2%, respectively.
The industry’s momentum could be stall depending on the outcome of the ongoing trade policy debate.
Tariffs on automakers building cars outside the U.S., a measure President Trump has repeatedly threatened to invoke heading into NAFTA negotiations, could further harm vehicles sales, according to Edmunds.