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SANTA MONICA, Calif. — New-vehicle sales will likely top 1 million units in March, according to TrueCar.com, which also projects a tightly contested sales race between Ford, General Motors and Toyota for the industry's No. 1 spot not only for March, but also for "much of the rest of the year."

Specifically, TrueCar.com forecasts U.S. light-vehicle sales (including fleet) of 1,021,465 vehicles in March. This mark is close to a 31-percent upswing from the prior month and a year-over-year gain of over 19 percent (unadjusted).

The seasonally adjusted sales rate for March is projected to come in at 11.3 million units.

Continuing on, TrueCar looked at how some of the major manufacturers are faring. 

Toyota's incentive spending — which is expected to increase the most among the seven major OEMs on a year-over-year (up 46.7 percent) and month-over-month (up 32.7 percent) basis — appears to be paying off, as the automaker's sales are likely to climb 70.5 percent from February and 28.4 percent compared to March 2009.

Toyota's projected sales of 170,552 units puts it in a foot race with GM — which is expected to see sales of 177,404 units — and Ford, whose anticipated March sales are 173,141 vehicles.

Compared to February, GM's sales will likely rise 25.7 percent, and Ford's are expected to be up 26 percent. On a year-over-year basis, TrueCar is projecting a 15.8-percent gain for GM and a 38.8-percent upswing for Ford.

"Ford, GM and Toyota are all within the margin of error to grab the top spot for sales in March," explained Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends and insight for TrueCar.com. "We expect a photo finish for much of the rest of the year."

What's more, TrueCar suggested that the expected rise in sales for many luxury brands — including BMW (up 33 percent), Mercedes-Benz (up 34 percent), Jaguar (up 57 percent), Land Rover (up 29 percent), Porsche (up 32 percent) and Lexus (up 28 percent) — could point to consumer being willing to "not just buy, but spend money."

Toprak also explained that the "the growth in luxury market share tells us that consumers are starting to feel some confidence in the potential economic recovery."

Looking at the projected sales data by OEM in more detail, Chrysler is expected to move 97,930 units, a 16-percent improvement over February, but a 3-percent year-over-year decline.

Honda's expected sales of 105,981 units would be a 31.4-percent gain from a month ago and a 19.9-percent uptick from March 2009.

Nissan is projected to move 83,396 vehicles by the end of the month for an 18.8-percent month-over-month increase and a 25.2-percent rise over the year-ago period.

TrueCar expects Hyundai/Kia will see a sales total of 74,981 units, which would be 29.2 percent stronger than February and up 14.6 percent from March 2009.

As far as market share, Toyota is projected to command the most (18 percent), followed by GM (17.7 percent) and Ford (17.2 percent). Honda is expected to be at 11 percent, with Chrysler at 8.1 percent.

TrueCar expects Hyundai/Kia to have market share of 7.8 percent, while Nissan will likely command 7.2 percent.

Moving on to examine incentive spending in more detail, TrueCar projects that manufacturers' combined incentive spending will total close to $2.9 billion during the month, with an average per-unit spending of roughly $2,800. The per-unit spending would be an increase of 3.2 percent month-over-month and a 9.7-percent year-over-year decline.

As far as total incentive spending, GM is predicted to spend the most at approximately $594 million, followed by Ford ($489 million) and Toyota ($395 million). Chrysler was next at nearly $342 million.

TrueCar anticipates Nissan's incentive spending will reach close to $250 million, while Honda's will likely be at just more than $204 million.

Finally, incentive spending for Hyundai/Kia is projected to be near $183 million.

In terms of per-unit incentive spending, Chrysler ($3,491) tops the list of major OEMs, followed by GM ($3,351), Nissan ($2,993), Ford ($2,826), and Hyundai/Kia ($2,440).

Rounding out the list were Toyota ($2,318) and Honda ($1,929).