That's saying something, because U.S. auto sales fell 26.6 percent from the year-ago month. Year to date, sales were down 12.8 percent to about 10.8 million, according to AutoData.
Last month, edmunds.com predicted September sales would fall 19.7 percent, so the actual result was even worse than expected. Edmunds, which has a consumer auto news and car shopping web site, is expected to have a more complete October forecast later this month.
September sales were so bad, the poor results prompted Toyota to make an unprecedented zero-percent financing offer on 11 models, through Nov. 3. Even that wasn't enough to put people in a car-buying mood, said Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of edmunds.com.
"The automotive market slowdown has entered a new phase," Anwyl said in a written statement on Oct. 10. "Instead of hoping for the best, consumers are preparing for the worst. Even really good offers are essentially going to fall on deaf ears," he said.
Based on shoppers that visited edmunds.com early this month, Anwyl said demand picked up for the Toyota Camry, Corolla, Highlander and Tacoma, but not for the other Toyota models included in the zero-percent offer.
Still, the Camry and Corolla are Toyota's top two sellers in the U.S. market, and among the Top 10-selling vehicles in the nation, so any improvement could represent a large volume of cars.
"Toyota looked unstoppable until last year, and now the company is offering zero-percent financing; it's a reflection of how bad things really are," said Jesse Toprak, edmunds.com executive director of industry analysis.