- The Washington Times - Friday, October 2, 2009

DETROIT | U.S. auto sales fell sharply in September, enduring a tough hangover from this summer’s “cash for clunkers” buying spree.

General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC posted the biggest slowdowns during the month, while Hyundai was the sole winner among big carmakers, reporting a 27 percent rise in sales from a year earlier.

“It was a more difficult month than we anticipated,” Mark LaNeve, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales, told reporters during a conference call.

The September slump for car and truck makers follows a heady summer. Automakers got a big lift in July and August from clunkers, which spurred sales of nearly 700,000 new vehicles. The government program’s big discounts lured in many customers who otherwise would have waited until later in the year to walk into dealerships.

Now automakers are starting to feel the effect. GM’s sales plunged 45 percent to 155,679 vehicles in September, compared with a year earlier. Chrysler sold only 62,197 vehicles last month, down 42 percent.

Even higher incentives didn’t shake buyers from their fall slumber. Automakers spent an average of $2,557 per vehicle in the U.S., up $83 from August, according to the auto Web site Edmunds.com. But that was largely because of big increases from domestic automakers.

European and Japanese manufacturers cut their spending on incentives, which include offerings like financing deals and rebates that induce consumers to buy.

Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. said sales fell 13 percent while Nissan Motor Co. said its sales fell 7 percent. Honda’s sales fell 23.3 percent to 77,229.

Ford Motor Co. had the smallest decline among major manufacturers, falling 5.1 percent to 114,241, but the decline followed two straight months of rising sales.

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