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U.S. Auto Sales Forecasts Fall on Poor September Results

U.S. auto sales forecasts took a tumble following terrible sales results for September, and the growing prospect of a prolonged credit crisis that's making it harder for some consumers to get auto loans, and for automakers to finance their own operations.

J.D. Power and Associates last week cut its 2008 forecast to 14 million light vehicles, and its 2009 forecast to only 13.5 million. That would be the lowest since 1992, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

In September, U.S. auto sales fell 26.6 percent from the year-ago month, to 964,873 light vehicles, according to AutoData. Year to date, 2008 sales were down 12.8 percent, to about 10.8 million.

Robert Schnorbus, chief economist for J.D. Power, said as recently as Sept. 18 that the firm expected U.S. light-vehicle sales of 14.2 million in 2008, and 14.3 million in 2009.

J.D. Power was ahead of the curve in March, predicting 2008 sales would fall below 15 million, at a time when the car companies were still forecasting sales would be around 16 million. In 2007, light-vehicle sales were about 16.1 million, according to AutoData.

John Casesa, a partner in the Casesa Shapiro Group of strategic investment advisors, said on Oct. 6 his firm's 2008 light-vehicle forecast was 14 million, with a 2009 forecast of 13.6 million. He said forecasts could fall even more, "if October is as bad as September."

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