August auto sales slump by 21 percent, interest in federal stimulus increases

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

A sluggish August in the car industry has spawned interest in another federal stimulus program.

Last month, the industry sold 21 percent fewer cars than August 2009, when Cash for Clunkers brought a wave of buyers to showrooms.

The largest beneficiary of Cash for Clunkers, Toyota, with the hybrid Prius the talk of the industry, reported a 34 percent dip, while GM and Ford limped into September with 24.5 and 11 percent decreases, respectively.

Chrysler reported a 7 percent gain compared to last August’s tally, moving 99,611 units. The company was the only automaker to chalk a year-over-year increase.

Industry year-to-date sales remained up by 8.4 percent last month.

With the Cash for Clunkers effect evident, automakers remain hopeful. However,  they aren’t hanging their collective hat on government incentives to increase business.

“We would certainly support anything that’s good for the industry,” Bob Carter, of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, said. “But the primary thing we’re looking for is sustainable growth.”

Executives at Ford, GM and Chrysler said last week they would back another stimulus package but expect some resistance in Washington, D.C., over possible increases in the federal deficit. Unemployment also continues to keep consumer spending down.

Cash for Clunkers, officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System, was a $3 billion program aimed to assist U.S. car buyers trade older vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient cars. The program ended Aug. 24, 2009.

From the Sept. 8-14, 2010 issue

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