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Buy these stocks to ride the auto industry higher

2014 is shaping up to be a great year for the auto industry. After a slow couple of months at the start of the year due to harsh wintry weather, sales have picked up nicely, with automakers posting August sales numbers the likes of which we have not seen for years.

The annualized rate for vehicles sold in August was 17.5 million, the fastest pace seen since January 2006, and a clear sign that the auto industry has put its recession-era woes behind it.

The strong sales come as a result of a couple different factors. Improved consumer confidence, improvements to the overall economy, and in particular the labor market, as well as generous incentive spending by dealers.

With sales running at such a high pace, investors are once again bullish on auto-related stocks and looking for ways to take advantage of the strong sales numbers. The easy way would be to load up on the stocks of auto makers, and while there are a couple of auto makers I want to discuss, there are also many more ways to play the strength in the sector.

Let's discuss five different ways you can look to profit from strong auto sales.

Michael Fowlkes

Michael Fowlkes is a financial writer who has been with the Fresh Brewed Media family since 2004. Over the course of his tenure with Fresh Brewed Media, he has worn many hats, including portfolio manager, options analyst, and writer. Michael received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech in Accounting and got his start in finance working as a stock trader for six years at Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Va.