Get ready for it -- a bad sales month

Automakers are already trying to delicately warn audiences that August is going to look pretty bad when the month-over-month numbers emerge in a couple of weeks.

But there will be one giant quirk in the comparison: One year ago witnessed the tidal wave of cash-for-clunker sales. Last summer, as the industry lay convalescing from the crash, nearly 700,000 shoppers went out and bought a new car with federal incentives, most of them in August.

The program was a hit. But 12 months later, automakers have a tricky PR job on their hands -- especially General Motors, which may be thick into a public stock offering as the sales numbers materialize. The industry’s closely examined monthly results will likely show a setback from this year’s encouraging trends, simply because it will be hard for some brands to top the clunkers volume.

Economists, bankers, lenders, investors and employers who monitor auto sales as a barometer for the current climate for risk will be tempted to see disappointment and economic instability in the percentages. Those who are paying attention will know better.