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Polk research firm predicts strong 2013 US auto sales as economy continues to rebound

An auto industry research firm says an improving economy and a host of new models should push U.S. auto sales above 15 million this year.

The Polk research firm says auto sales should continue to lead the country's economic recovery. Polk predicts 15.3 million new vehicle registrations this year, up nearly 7 percent from 2012.

Automakers release December and full-year sales for 2012 on Thursday. Analysts predict sales of around 14.5 million, the strongest year since 2007.

Polk expects 43 new models to be introduced this year, up 50 percent from last year. New models usually boost sales. The company also predicts a rebound in large pickup truck sales.

But the optimistic forecast firm hinges on Washington reaching agreement on spending cuts that could happen later in the year.