DETROIT -- U.S. auto sales reached a 15-year low with a double-digit decline in September as tightening credit and a financial system in crisis appeared to overwhelm any optimism about moderating gas prices.
Sales of cars and light trucks fell 27% to 964,873 last month, down from 1.31 million a year earlier, according to Autodata Corp. The seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate was 12.5 million units down from 16.19 million in September 2007, the research firm said.
Car makers are trying to pare inventory in a weak market.
At the Paris Auto Show, Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Alan Mulally and General Motors Corp. Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson expressed pessimism about the outlook for 2009, saying sales were likely to be as low as the current year.
Most jarring for the industry may have been the severe drop for Japanese auto makers, widely considered the strongest players in the U.S. market, especially in the small-car segment. Hobbled by a weak truck and SUV sales as well as severe declines in sales for its popular Camry and Corolla models, Toyota Motor Corp. sales fell 32.3% in September. Honda Motor Co. dropped 24% and Nissan Motor Co. saw its North America sales tumble 37%. Those declines reflect the depth of the recession in U.S. auto sales as well as some strategic missteps, including Toyota's recent foray into a struggling pickup truck market.
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