He saw his first signs in the "beginning of October," McGuirk said. "Probably a little bit in September, but the whole month of October was quiet."
November sales were also down for America's big three car makers. Ford was down 7.2 percent; Chrysler, 5.5 percent; and GM, 8 percent.
McGuirk isn't surprised to see shoppers pulling back.
"We're victims of our own success. We were tracking last year at 19 million car sales, so, I guess what happens is, you kind of catch up," McGuirk said.
Due to the recent weakness in car sales, this week Chrysler, Ford and a major parts maker idled factories. The parts maker announced layoffs, one of several indicators of trouble on the horizon.
The latest indicator: Xerox announced Saturday that after suffering its first quarterly losses in 16 years, it's laying off 200 production workers.
"We are seeing signs that almost always occuwhen we go into a recession. Weak car sales, stock market that's been under lot of pressure mostly the Nasdaq, the Nasdaq's down over 50 percent. For some people, it feels like a recession," said Edward Yardeni, chief investment strategist, Deutsch Bank.
Other indicators of a possible recession are: home sales, down 3.9 percent in October; orders for durable goods, such as major appliances, down 5½ percent, and an increase in personal bankruptcies, up 10 percent since January.
Computer makers are also feeling the squeeze sales this year are down 12 percent.
"A combination of a 50 percent drop in the Nasdaq as we're in the holiday season and oil prices that are really quite high for most people are going to combine, I think, to depress retail sales growth," Yardeni said.
The economy's Santa Claus could be Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who is expected to deliver a Christmas present of lower interest rates to ensure a soft landing from the boom, not a crash.
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