McLEAN, Va. — The sales momentum of new cars and light trucks established last year is likely to continue in 2013, predicted Paul Taylor, chief economist of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Taylor expects more than 15.4 million new vehicles will be purchased or leased in the United States this year, an increase of 1 million vehicles over 2012. Last year, 14.4 million new vehicles were sold.

“Pent-up demand, affordable auto loans and enticing new-vehicle designs add up to a solid sales year that will outperform the overall U.S. economy,” Taylor said.

Taylor also highlighted several factors that will support his 2013 predictions:

Pent-Up Demand: The continued replacement of cars and trucks that aged to a record level during the recession will propel sales this year.

Available Credit: Low interest rates for auto loans, which are expected to increase in future years, will help motivate consumers to finance a new-vehicle purchase in 2013.

More New-Vehicle Choices: New-vehicle models with greater consumer appeal in design and fuel efficiency are headed to dealerships. About 50 new models will be introduced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Declining Unemployment: The falling rate of unemployment has led to improving consumer confidence.

Used-Vehicle Shortage: The continued short supply of used vehicles for sale resulting from the past recession will cause some consumers to purchase new vehicles this year, instead of used ones.

Fiscal Cliff Avoided: So far, modest action by Congress to avoid the fiscal cliff, which avoids some tax hikes, will result in more new-vehicle sales early in the year.

Improving Home Values: Residential real estate prices are showing a recovery in nearly all states in the nation, increasing the typical family nest egg. As a result, consumers are more confident about spending on big-ticket items.

“Momentum” is the theme of the upcoming NADA Convention and Expo in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 8-11. Taylor will discuss the performance of the new-vehicle market, new-car dealers and the U.S. economy at a convention press conference on Feb. 9.