The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) boosted its sales estimate for this year 2.4 percent to 16.8 million new cars and light trucks, crediting automakers' no-interest loans and cash rebates, according to Bloomberg News.

Sales at the rate forecast by the group, which previously expected 16.4 million, would make this year the fourth best ever. Last year, 17.2 million cars and light trucks were sold in the U.S., after a record 17.4 million in 2000.

"People are unsettled (about the economy) but confidence hasn't really been shaken in any real dramatic way," and automakers' incentives

probably will stay near current levels, said Paul Taylor, the group's chief economist, in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The interest-free financing offered by largest automaker General Motors Corp. and some rivals probably boosted sales by 100,000 vehicles in July and will have the same impact this month, Taylor said. Automakers sold 1.52 million new cars and light trucks last month, for an annual sales rate of 18.1 million, the highest since