WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Total light-vehicle retail sales are expected to reach 1.3 million units in February, according to the latest projections from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. This would represent a 9% increase compared with last February and mark the best February sales performance since 2002.

February's SAAR is projected to be 16.7 million units, while the new-vehicle retail SAAR is projected to come in at 13.5 million units, an increase of more than 1 million units over the previous February and the highest February retail SAAR since 2004.

“The industry had a great start to 2015 in January and that sales momentum continues in February with exceptional growth in retail sales,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power.

The compact SUV segment is leading the industry in retail sales for the fifth consecutive month, accounting for 15.2% of retail sales so far in February, according to J.D. Power. Midsize cars have slipped to fourth in sales volume behind compact SUVs, compact cars and midsize SUVs. Inventory levels increased to an 82-day supply at the beginning of February, up from 61 days in January but still below February 2014 levels.

Due to the early strength in 2015 sales, LMC Automotive increased its sales forecast for the year to 17 million total light-vehicle sales.

“Strength at the start of 2015 is a key factor in keeping the industry on target to surpass annual vehicle sales of 17 million units for the first time since 2001,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC. “Given all the positive factors, including the economy, gas prices and fresh new products in showrooms, rain clouds are expected to stay out of the auto sales forecast for the duration of 2015.”