Auto dealers had been enjoying the highest sales since 2007 until the government shutdown paralyzed many consumers with uncertainty, said Tim Roper, owner of Smith Motors Auto Group.
Showroom floor and online traffic fell off by about 30 percent in the last few weeks.
"The budget battle put on chill on the sector in late September and October," he said.
Auto sales have been rising for 20 quarters, and pickup trucks in particular had been flying of dealership lots. They have been selling well because both Chevrolet and Chrysler released new models, and homebuilding has seen a rebound, Roper said.
He hopes overall sales will see a lift again, now that the 16-day government shutdown has ended.
Automakers are optimistic about next year. They have ratcheted up production to a 14-year high for the fourth quarter, Roper said. They are are pace to produce 4.02 million vehicles, or the most in a fourth quarter since 1999.