Cash for Clunkers fizzles out

After a rosy August, September's auto sales numbers revert to plain old horrible

By Andrew Leonard

Published October 1, 2009 9:45PM (EDT)

Cue the Cash for Clunker bashing: U.S. automakers reported some ugly September sales numbers on Thursday. Compared to a year ago, GM's sales were down 45 percent and Chrysler's were down 42 percent. Ford was much better: Only down 5.1 percent.

But the key number is this: In August, Cash for Clunkers boosted sales at a rate that, when annualized, would have added up to 14.1 million for the entire. But The Financial Times cites an Autodata estimate calculating that September's sales annualize out to 9.22 million. That ranks right up there with the worst month so far in 2009: February's 9.12 million.

The data suggest that critics of Cash for Clunkers who argued that it would just "steal" sales from the future were correct, and those who, like me, expected that a little stimulus applied to the car market would create some forward-going momentum were wrong.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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