Sales plunge echoes 1990's

Month after month of falling U.S. vehicle sales. Then, before summer ends, an international incident heightens world tensions.

That describes this year, but the pattern also fits 1990. U.S. auto sales had already begun to soften when Iraqi forces rolled into Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990. Gasoline prices soared, and the U.S. market recorded a 17.5 percent August plunge.

But that was only the beginning. The U.S. bombing of Iraq, which began on Jan. 17, 1991, triggered another drop in sales. In the last 10 days of that month, U.S. sales fell 53 percent from their year-ago levels. Every month in 1991 was off from 1990 sales levels.

Automakers no longer report 10-day sales results, but a J.D. Power and Associates study last week found that in the Sept. 11-17 period, U.S. sales fell 23 percent from the previous seven-day period as the nation once again braced itself for military action.

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