Why Auto Sales Are Close to Hitting the Brakes

America's auto industry, in the midst of a five-year run where sales have rebounded more than 55 percent, is close to seeing a slowdown, according to a new study. The AlixPartners 2014 Automotive Study suggests sales of cars and trucks in the U.S. will hit a peak this year and then gradually pull back. "This is a cyclical industry and we think this current cycle has just about run its course," said Mark Wakefield of AlixPartners. "We're a little less optimistic than others about the demand for new vehicles staying this strong." For 2015, AlixPartners estimates U.S. sales will peak at 16.7 million before gradually starting to pull back. A primary reason new vehicle sales are poised to slow down, according to the study, is the expectation of rising interest rates. "We're living in an unusually calm world for interest rates," said Wakefield. "We believe the Fed will start to raise rates and when that happens, interest rates for auto loans will also go up."

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-- By Phil LeBeau, CNBC Auto and Airline Reporter