SOUTHFIELD , Mich. — R. L. Polk & Co. estimates new light vehicle sales in 2010 will reach 11.2 million units, up 9.6 percent over 2009, with third quarter 2010 sales estimated to be the strongest at an anticipated 28 percent of the annual total.

The bottoming out of the housing market, a reversal in the decline of home prices, expansion in manufacturing, and improved consumer sentiment indicate positive signs the economic recovery is well underway.

September 2009 light vehicle sales declined to 745,000 new units, down from robust August sales of 1.26 million units made in conjunction with the Cash for Clunkers program. Once the program ended, inventories were down and subsequently, showroom traffic declined. Overall, Polk forecasts that the program will generate a positive net impact of 354,000 additional vehicles sold in 2009. Of the total reported 690,000 new buyers during the program’s timeframe, Polk analysis suggests 336,000 would have bought in 2009 regardless of the incentive program. Year-end light vehicle sales for 2009 are projected to be down 23 percent over 2008.

“We are confident the worst is behind us,” said Dave Goebel, North American forecast consultant for Polk. “We also believe the Cash for Clunkers program will have little to no impact on 2010 sales, because the overall economic outlook has improved since earlier this year and this serves automakers well as they bring new models into their showrooms.”

Based on the improving economic conditions and consumer sentiment, Polk increased its 2010 light vehicle sales forecast to 11.2 million units, up from 10.8 million units previously forecast.