Meltdown

Auto Sales Plummet

One (admittedly small) comfort for automakers confronting dismal January numbers: It can’t get much worse. Car sales dropped about 35 percent last month, with Chrysler losing 55 percent, General Motors 49 percent, and Ford 40 percent. Toyota, which recently posed its first ever operating loss, dipped 32 percent. Consumers facing dwindling incomes and a credit market in a deep freeze have shunned dealerships, forcing automakers to take billions in government money to avoid bankruptcy—and if sales continue to drop, they’ll need billions more. “These are turbulent, uncharted times in our industry,” a Chrysler vice chairman tells The New York Times. “We’ve got to get our arms around the fact that this is probably normal.”