Cars ready for shipment at the Port of Yokohama in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Cars ready for shipment at the Port of Yokohama in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan - 
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Steve Chiotakis: It's certainly a month carmakers will want to forget.
Sales for the month were down -- in many cases by a third or half.
Chrysler's sales plummeted by 53 percent.
GM, Ford and -- believe it or not -- Toyota dropped off by more than 30 percent.

And Toyota's taking some manufacturing measures to offset those gloomy numbers.
While some other carmakers are trying to get buyers into the showrooms.
From North Carolina Public Radio, here's Marketplace's Janet Babin.

Janet Babin: Toyota's sales fell 37 percent in December. That's even worse than the declines at GM and Ford. In response, the company says it will stop making cars at its Japanese plants for 11 days in February and March.

At Hyundai, sales are off nearly 50 percent. In an effort to boost demand, the company's offering a new deal for its best customers: If you can't make your car payment, bring your Hyundai back free of charge. The company will cover the depreciation on any returned or leased vehicle for the first 12 months.

Ashvin Chotai is with Intelligence Automotive Asia. He says great idea, but it won't work:

Ashvin Chotai: Although this thing takes away some of the risk, it doesn't take away all of the risk. So I would say it's an innovative tactic, but it's unlikely to have a major impact really.

Chotai expects auto sales will plummet further in 2009 in every significant market in the world.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.