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Prospective car buyers look for a bargain on a Jeep Wrangler at the Star Chrysler Jeep dealership in Glendale, Calif. - 

Jeremy Hobson: Well today we'll find out how the world's carmakers fared last month, and analysts are expecting the auto industry will continue to be a bright spot in an otherwise shaky economy.

Marketplace's Alisa Roth reports.

Alisa Roth: The good news is 2011 car sales are shaping up to be better than 2010. The bad news is we're still buying four million fewer cars every year than we did before the recession.

Paul Taylor is chief economist at the National Automobile Dealers Association. He says Americans aren't in a hurry to buy, but their cars are getting old.

Paul Taylor: That's driving a lot of customers in, based on need, even though they remain skeptical of an economy that's not fully meeting their expectations.

Used car prices are up, which Taylor says is helping new car sales -- because used cars are so expensive now, a lot of people figure they might as well buy new.

Jessica Caldwell is an analyst at Edmunds.com. She says there are usually big sales around Labor Day, and now is the time when dealers start making room for next year's models.

Jessica Caldwell: Generally speaking, we're in that model year sell-down mode, so people wanting to get a deal on a 2011 model, it's really a good time to start shopping.

Taylor, the economist, thinks dealers will be sweetening incentives to build sales momentum through the rest of the year.

I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.