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27-year low in auto industry sales

March 3, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression has sent the U.S. automobile industry spiraling into its worst sales month in 27 years. Ford, Toyota, and Chrysler were all down at least 40 percent. General Motors was even worse.Go to car dealerships and you'll see plenty of vehicles, but not so many customers. Despite incentives and low-interest financing, auto sales plunged in February.

"This is the most difficult market I've been in and I've been in the business for 55 years," said Bert Boeckmann, owner of Galpin Ford.

The automakers released their numbers Tuesday and the drop is stunning.

Bert Boeckmann owns Galpin Ford in North Hills, and he says consumers are wary to spend money on a big purchase like a vehicle. Also, the credit markets are very tight.

"It's a little more difficult for a lot of customers to get credit, particularly if they have any negatives on their credit," said Boeckmann. "Because of our long association with Ford, that's helped us tremendously. A lot of dealers don't have that. Then thirdly, frankly, when you listen to the news every morning you start out on kind of a depressed state."

Car buyers agree. Antoinette Ramirez needs to buy a car but she says getting the money is almost impossible.

"Getting the credit and actually having, you know, jobs don't pay you much right now if you're that lucky to have a job, and because when you're not financially able to do it, it makes it really, really difficult to get anything approved," said Ramirez.

"I'm having trouble,so you can imagine how other people are doing it now, with credit -- good or bad," said potential car buyer Gloria Castillo. "They're having as much trouble as I am."

Car manufacturers are struggling to survive. GM announced it is shutting down its plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. The plant shut down back in December for six weeks leaving 2000 people out of work.

Experts believed the market should rebound by the end of the year, but now they are less certain.

"Well I think the auto industry has to improve within the next year, or frankly it would be a disaster for all," said Boeckmann.


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