The president of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association said domestic automakers will end 1994 by achieving major economic objectives and will surpass earlier expectations.

While year-end figures are not final yet, U.S. vehicle sales should total about 15.5 million units for 1994, 1 million units more than 1993 and nearly 2.5 million higher than 1992.President Andrew Card Jr. said the U.S. auto industry will continue to be a major force behind the U.S. economic recovery.

"The good news is that analysts continue to be bullish on our industry's sales, predicting that 1995 and 1996 may be the best ever, surpassing the high water mark set in 1986 of 16.3 million new vehicle sales," Card said. "The resurgence of Chrysler (Corp.), Ford (Motor Co.) and General Motors (Corp.) that began in 1992 is now in high gear."

Industry analysts predict Chrysler, Ford and General Motors may earn a record combined annual profit of $14.5 billion, surpassing their previous record of $11.2 billion set in 1988, Card said.

In the first quarter of 1994, the U.S. auto industry accounted for 26 percent of the growth in the nation's gross domestic product.

Total exports by Chrysler, Ford and General Motors from North America will be between 310,000 to 320,000, a 25 percent increase over 1993.

From 1990 to 1993, North American exports of cars and trucks produced by Chrysler, Ford and GM already had increased by 40 percent. In 1993, GM, Ford and Chrysler were America's number one, three and five exporters, respectively.

"At the current pace, we expect them to continue to be America's leading exporters in 1994," Card said.

Card said that one issue that stood out in 1994 is Environmental Protection Agency's decision to approve the California low emission vehicle program, known as the Ozone Transport Commission Low Emission Vehicle or program, for the 12 Northeast states and the District of Columbia.

The auto industry has proposed the 49-state approach.

The 49-state approach provides air quality equal to or better than that achieved under OTC-LEV, through the introduction of transitional low emission vehicles in to the Northeast states in model year 1997 and low emission vehicles starting in model year 1999.

"EPA is sending a strong signal to the newly elected governors in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states that one of their first priorities in office must be to tackle this issue," said Card.

"If their bottom line is to obtain cleaner air while still guarding the pocketbooks of their constituents, we're convinced that they will embrace the 49-state approach that the auto industry put forward," he said.