DETROIT—Auto makers are expected to build more than 16 million light vehicles in North America this year, the region's highest output since 2002.
Two major forecasters, LMC Automotive and IHS Automotive, predict that production will rise from last year's 15.5 million units as the U.S. economy continues to improve.
"We're getting close to the point where all factories are hitting full speed," said Jeff Schuster, LMC's executive director of automotive forecasting. "We could hit a wall if this keeps up."
Schuster said auto makers are running their plants at close to 90 percent of capacity, putting extra pressure on companies to ensure smooth production launches.
LMC now expects production for the year to reach 16.0 million units while IHS forecasts production of 16.1 million light vehicles. That would be the highest output since the industry produced 16.5 million vehicles in 2002.
LMC projects North American production of 3.9 million units in the third quarter—up 7 percent from a year earlier. Here's LMC's third-quarter forecast:
• General Motors Co. will boost production 4 percent year-on-year to 794,000 units. This fall the company is launching the re-engineered Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.
• Ford Motor Co. is raising output 8 percent to 717,000 units on strong demand for pickups.
• Chrysler Group L.L.C. and Fiat S.p.A. are raising production 6 percent to 581,000 units as Chrysler ramps up output of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and new Cherokee pickup.
• Toyota Motor Corp. will assemble 466,000 cars and trucks, up 13 percent. The company is ramping up production of the Toyota RAV4 and Avalon.
• American Honda Motor Co. is expected to raise output 17 percent to 444,000 units; a year ago, the redesigned Honda Accord was still in launch mode.
• Nissan Motor Co. production will jump 20 percent to 377,000 units on strong demand for the Nissan Altima plus production of the Nissan Versa Note.
• Hyundai-Kia Motor Co.will raise production 8 percent to 202,000 units. The company has said global production has been constrained by supplier bottlenecks.
• Volkswagen Group's output is expected to decline 23 percent to 170,000 units a result of slower demand for the VW Passat and Jetta plus a looming model changeover.