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CAR CRASH

Is this the beginning of the end for America’s auto boom?

2013 was the best year for car sales in America since 2007, with an estimated 15.6 million vehicles sold.

But after an extremely strong November, the month of December was alarmingly weak. GM’s sales fell by 6%, Toyota’s fell by 2%, Volkswagen suffered a 23% slide. While Ford and Chrysler eked out gains, they were weaker than expected. The car companies are blaming unusually cold weather for the weak sales in December, which is typically one of the strongest months of the year.

We’ve already discussed how the US auto boom is also built on a boom in cheap loans to consumers with questionable credit. It’s too early to tell whether December is a tipping point for the industry, which appears to be built on some reasonably shaky foundations. But as a major employer and customer of adjacent manufacturing industries, US auto sales are certain to be watched closely throughout 2014.

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