Car sales strong in the U.S. in 2012

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It's not quite boom times for the U.S. auto industry. But it's getting there.

Sales of new cars and trucks are likely to reach 14.5 million for 2012. And if they increase to more than 15 million this year, as many expect, the industry will be close to its recent high of 17 million in 2007 - just before the Great Recession took hold.

Cheap loans, a host of new cars and greater confidence in the economy are drawing buyers into showrooms. Plus, Americans who hung on to aging cars during the recession are ready to trade them in.

Volkswagen saw a 35% jump in sales in 2012, one of the biggest increases in the industry. Chrysler's sales jumped 21%.

Both General Motors and Ford gained sales in 2011 when the earthquake hurt their Japanese competitors. But the Japanese snatched those sales back in 2012, and GM and Ford lagged behind the industry. GM saw a 4% sales increase for the year. Ford's sales were up 5%.

Japanese companies, who struggled after the earthquake and tsunami, got their U.S. supplies back to normal in the first few months of 2012 and never looked back. Toyota's U.S. sales rose 28%. Honda's sales rose 24%.

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