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Fewer cars in the U.S. fleet

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Steve Chiotakis: It’s no secret the American auto industry is in dire straights. A government bailout, and not just slumping sales — abysmal sales. Today, we’re gonna find out just how abysmal. Carmakers report December sales figures throughout the day, and they could be downright scary. Here’s Marketplace’s Amy Scott.


Amy Scott: One way the auto industry measures its health is a figure called the annual selling rate.

Jesse Toprak is with the auto research Web site Edmunds.com. He says last month, the sales rate likely fell below 10 million cars and trucks for the first time in decades. That’s fewer cars than we send to the junkyard each year.

Jesse Toprak: If you just look at the number of cars that disappear from traffic, the old cars just getting scrapped, that’s around 12 million, 12.5 million cars. So with a 10 million selling rate, we’re actually lowering the number of cars that are in the U.S. fleet.

Fewer cars and trucks on the roads may sound good for the planet. For the economy, not so much.

There are signs the shift away from trucks and SUVs might be reversing now that gas prices have fallen back to earth. Toprak says last month, truck and SUV sales outpaced car sales for the first time all year.

In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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