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Auto sales down again in June, but signs of hope emerge

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AP / David Zalubowski

(Read caption) 2010 Ford Mustangs sit at a dealership in Centennial, Colo. Ford took less of a hit in its June sales than other carmakers in part because its new product lineup is especially desirable, according to auto expert Jesse Toprak.

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Times are still tough for the auto industry, but maybe the end of the tunnel is coming into view.

You just need strong headlights.

In reports released Wednesday, carmakers generally reported another month of sales declines in June. What's changing is the pace of the slowdown, which now looks shallower (on a year-over-year basis) than it did a month ago.

So perhaps the worst is almost over for this hard-hit industry.

Here is how the June sales stack up for the largest carmakers:

General Motors, down 33 percent from last June.

Ford, down 11 percent.

Chrysler, down 42 percent.

Toyota, down 32 percent.

Honda, down 30 percent.

Nissan, down 23 percent.

Those numbers aren't pretty. But the declines looked even worse in May.

Here's how Al Castignetti, general manager for Nissan in the US, put it in an interview with Reuters: "I wouldn't say that the industry has done a 180 [degree turn], but I would say that in the last 60 days the industry has stabilized."

Ford stands out from the others. Its sales haven't been hit as hard as its peers, partly because it's gaining some business from shoppers who are leery of firms in bankruptcy. Chrysler just went through a court restructuring, and GM entered bankruptcy a month ago.

"Ford’s product lineup is extremely desirable," adds Jesse Toprak, an auto expert at the website Edmunds.com.

In a conference call with reporters, he said Ford is also putting up tougher competition to non-US brands.

Mr. Toprak expects car sales within the US to begin picking up later this year, for total 2009 sales of 10.4 million. That should rise above 12 million next year, he predicts.


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