U.S. auto sales in November will not fall back below levels seen in October, the chief U.S. sales analyst for Ford Motor Co said on Friday.

U.S. auto sales registered a 10.46 million unit annualized rate in October, the industry's best performance in a year -- excluding July and August, when the U.S. government's cash for clunkers incentive program boosted sales.

I think that we won't fall backward from October; how much November might advance from the October level it is too early to say, Ford U.S. sales analyst George Pipas said in an appearance at the Automotive Press Association. What I've seen so far is good enough that it suggests to me that we are not going to take another step backward into September.

Pipas said he expects U.S. auto industry sales for November and the fourth quarter overall to be at least in the range seen in October.

The fourth quarter will be stronger from an auto sales standpoint than a pre-clunkers level, Pipas said.

In his presentation, Pipas said he expects the small vehicle category to grow to be about even with the mid-size segment as the top selling U.S. vehicle segment by 2013, an about-face from a decade earlier when large vehicles dominated.

The balance has tipped pretty dramatically, Pipas said of the U.S. auto industry.

That is also a critical point for Ford, he said.

If you want to be on a path of sustainable growth ... the next battleground is right here in the small car market, Pipas said. In fact, the battleground has been in that market.

(Reporting by David Bailey, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)