Car sales actually are good despite attempts to claim they aren’t, and yes, they do seem disjointed from the rest of the economy.
Average age and miles of cars on the road has gone up with the slipping economy, but after 5+ years those vehicles have to be replaced. Small business is more important now with more people resorting to self-employment. Many of those self-employed are vehicle dependent.
Agriculture is very profitable right now, creating high demand for pickups.
Places like Des Moines, Iowa, have weathered the poor economy better than most places. Prestige brands like BMW, Mercedes and Lexus sell much better than one expects in a very middle-class area. Other premium brands have strong sales, and even value brands like Kia are surprised to find that loaded vehicles are the ones buyers want.
According to CNBC over 40% of new auto loans last quarter were subprime.