Will 2009 offer any relief from this most dreary of car-selling seasons?
The Detroit 3 aren't optimistic. Ford Motor, the most bullish of the three, predicts U.S. light-vehicle sales of 12.2 million units in 2009.
That would be 900,000 fewer than the 13.1 million expected in 2008 by auto analyst Erich Merkle.
But Merkle holds out hope for a recovery in the second half of 2009. He predicts U.S. sales of 12.8 million for the year, despite forecasting an awful first quarter.
For January through March, Merkle expects that the industry's seasonally adjusted annual rate will be 10.5 million units, an abysmal rate that would match that of the fourth quarter of 2008.
"A 10.5 million (annual sales rate) is no more sustainable than the 21 million we had in July 2005 when General Motors had its employee pricing for all," said Merkle, who is with the accounting and consulting firm Crowe Horwath LLP.