August Auto Sales Up for a Change? We'll Know Soon

Saturday, August 29, 2009

New vehicle sales in August probably did something they haven't done in a long time: increase compared with the previous year, auto industry executives said Friday, crediting the government's popular "Cash for Clunkers" program.

The results of the program -- which encouraged drivers to trade in gas guzzlers by offering rebates on new, more fuel-efficient vehicles -- will come into clear view on Tuesday, when automakers are scheduled to report monthly sales. Many analysts are forecasting a year-over-year increase.

Retail sales at Ford in August have already surpassed last year's levels with a weekend still to go, said Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas. In July, Ford's sales rose 2.4 percent.

Rival GM is also seeing an increase. General Motors Vice President Brent Dewar said the automaker is projecting U.S. sales of 10.5 million vehicles for 2009 and 12.5 million in 2010 as consumer confidence improves.

Cash for Clunkers drew hordes of buyers, spurring 690,114 new sales at a taxpayer cost of $2.88 billion, according to the Department of Transportation.

Fields estimated about 30 to 40 percent of its clunkers sales were "truly incremental," meaning that they came from consumers who had no plans previously to buy a car. The rest, he said, came from people who were going to buy a car later on.

Now that the program is over, sales are expected to slow, Dewar said.

-- Associated Press

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