U.S. new-vehicle sales in 2018 rise slightly to 17.27 million [UPDATE]

DETROIT — Sales of new vehicles in the U.S. rose slightly in 2018, defying predictions and highlighting a strong economy.

Automakers reported an increase of 0.3 percent over a year ago to 17.27 million vehicles.

The increase came despite rising interest rates, a volatile stock market, and rising car and truck prices that pushed some buyers out of the new-vehicle market.

Industry analysts and automakers said strong economic fundamentals pushed up sales and should keep them near historic highs in 2019.

“Economic conditions in the U.S. are favorable and should continue to be supportive of vehicle sales at or around their current run rate,” Ford Chief Economist Emily Kolinski Morris said after the company and other automakers announced their sales numbers Thursday.

That auto sales remain near the 2016 record of 17.55 million is a testimonial to the strength of the economy, said Mark Zandi, chief

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