Automakers sold about 15.6 million cars last year, the highest number since 2007, when 16.1 million units were sold.
They plan to build 16.3 million units this year in anticipation of growing demand, said Tim Roper, owner of Smith Motors Auto Group, which operates Chevrolet dealerships in Hammond and Lowell. Chevy was the No. 1 brand in the Chicagoland area last year, followed by Honda, Toyota and Ford, Roper said.
General Motors will release 17 new models this year, in addition to cranking up production.
"If you drive by our lots, you'll see a lot of cars," Roper said. "That prices price competition and lower grosses. From a dealer standpoint, it will be a challenging year for us."
But strong sales are expected to continue because vehicles on the road have been aging and the broader economy has been improving.