October 1, 2009

Car sales return to pre-clunker slump

U.S. auto sales fell back to earth in September with the end of the federal rebate program designed to spur sales and push fuel efficiency.

The CARS program -- formally the Car Allowance Rebate System, but casually called the cash for clunkers program -- propped up sales in July and August. As the program ended, however, manufacturers may well have said pop goes the weasel.

Floor traffic was lousy all month "¦ It was a real post-clunker hangover, said Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president for U.S. sales.

Ford Motor Co. said sales fell 5 percent in September from a year ago. General Motors Co. said sales for the month fell 45 percent from 2008. Chrysler called it a 42 percent drop. Honda reported a 20 percent decline; Toyota 13 percent, Nissan 7 percent, The New York Times reported.

The cash for clunker was expected to have sparked consumer-supported interest -- like priming a pump. But the priming didn't take.

I expected the month to be a bit stronger, but it just wasn't, LaNeve said.