updated 9/23/2010 11:34:01 AM ET 2010-09-23T15:34:01

U.S. auto dealers have been seeing stronger new-vehicle sales in September after a tumultuous summer, J.D. Power and Associates said Thursday.

The forecasting firm expects total sales of 961,500 cars and trucks in September, 29 percent higher than the same month a year ago. Last year's sales were depressed by the recession and the Cash for Clunkers program, which ended last August.

"The vigorous start to September is an indication that vehicle buyers delayed some of their purchases in late August, and were most likely waiting for Labor Day sales and hoping for increases in vehicle availability," Jeff Schuster, J.D. Power's executive director of global forecasting, said in a statement.

On an annualized basis, sales for September could hit 11.8 million vehicles, which would make it one of the strongest months of the year. J.D. Power is predicting that September's retail selling rate — or the rate of vehicles sold to individual customers but not fleets — will be the highest in two years.

Schuster said September sales are more in line with the measured recovery that automakers have been predicting. So far this year that recovery has been halting, with month-to-month sales falling as often as they rose compared to severely depressed sales in 2009.

Last month, J.D. Power cut its forecast for full-year U.S. sales in 2010 from 11.7 million to 11.6 million.

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