What happened

Car stocks opened higher on Tuesday. As of 11 a.m. ET, shares of automotive giant Ford (F -2.30%) gained 1.8% and smaller electric vehicle upstarts Rivian Automotive (RIVN -7.78%) and Lucid Group (LCID -2.81%) rose similar amounts -- 1.9% and 2%, respectively.

Granted, with stock markets glowing green across the board today, it could be that car stocks are just keeping pace with traffic. But on an encouraging note, there appears to be some actual good news for the automotive sector today:

Car sales in Europe are growing again. 

So what

According to the latest report from the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, new passenger car registrations in the European Union rose 9.6% year over year in September.

On the one hand, this growth was measured off the low base of lackluster September sales, which were hampered by widespread deficits of crucial automotive parts -- semiconductors in particular. Also, year-to-date car sales in Europe are still down year over year -- 9.9%. But on the other hand, September's numbers may reflect the beginnings of a trend of positive and growing sales in the automotive sector, seeing as September was the second straight month of positive growth. (August's sales in the European Union were up, too -- 4.4%.)  

Now what

If this is the beginning of a trend, then what automotive investors may be seeing now are the first glimmers of hope that the great, global semiconductor chip shortage -- which as recently as six months ago still seemed far from over -- could finally be approaching its end.

For investors despairing over Ford's admission that it has 40,000 to 45,000 Ford SUVs and trucks stuck on lots, half-finished for lack of parts, or upset to hear that Rivian and Lucid have cut production estimates for similar reasons, this would surely be good news. It raises the chances that supply chains may start to get unsnarled, and that car and truck sales can finally resume growing. And on an optimistic note, this theory does seem to jibe with recent reports of semiconductor companies cutting back on expansion and production plans now that buyers aren't snapping up every new semiconductor they can crank out.    

All that being said, according to automotive stock analysts, Rivian still isn't expected to begin reporting even pro forma profits from its automotive business before 2027 at the earliest. And Lucid isn't expected to do so before 2029. If after hearing today's automotive news, you're inclined to invest in any automotive stock, I still think that Ford stock -- for which analysts forecast nothing but profits as far as the eye can see -- is probably your best bet.