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September’s Auto Sales a Sea of Red

How bad were last month’s auto sales? About as bad as it gets … or perhaps, has gotten, so far. Autoblog’s chart of automotive sales for September 2008 tells the bloody tale. These are frightening times. Every automaker, save three, saw double digit sales volume drops over September 2007, despite aggressive discounting and marketing programs.

It comes as little surprise that Audi, Mini, and Volkswagen are the three to have best weathered the September storm, with drops of 5.4, 6.7, and 9.4%, respectively. The German automakers, with the exception of Porsche, have the opportunity to gain significant market share with the overall downturn, due to their advanced expertise with clean diesel engines. If Mini and Volkswagen dealers had inventory on their popular models, they might have bucked the trend and posted sales increases last month.

Americans have turned the page. It’s the most fuel efficient vehicles that are moving off the lots and the long waiting line for fuel efficient clean diesels has begun.

I stopped into a local Volkswagen dealer to inquire about Jetta TDI availability early in the month and was quoted a January delivery: four months out. The salesman asked apologetically, “Is there anything else we have that you might be interested in?”

Word is that the Mini factory in Oxford, England is running round-the-clock with three shifts, seven days a week to keep up with the worldwide demand … and they haven’t cleared the hurdles to bring a 50-state clean diesel Mini D across the pond.

If you think you see a lot of Minis scooting about your town now, just wait. An Americanized Mini D is a surefire hit.

As we’re all hunkering down, waiting for the other shoe to drop, it’s a good time to take a look to the future. The automotive world is changing faster then most folks would have ever imagined. But for many, it’s an unfortunate circumstance.

Hundreds of car dealerships could be shuttered by year end. It doesn’t have to be that way.

There’s hope in the service departments. America must turn to fitting its rolling fleet with a more efficient means of propulsion. HEVT’s 40 MPG Ford F-150 conversion is a harbinger of what could be.

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