January's U.S. sales of new cars and light trucks were the lowest of any month since December 1981. And the details are even more telling:
-- Last month's sales of 656,881 vehicles were down 37.1 percent from January 2008.
-- Import-badged brands outsold the Detroit 3's domestic brands by 97,819 units. The Detroit 3's 42.6 percent share was their lowest ever.
The recession and the credit crunch are to blame. General Motors and Ford Motor Co. also cited fewer fleet sales. In general, consumers who have lost their jobs can't buy cars and trucks, and those who are still working are afraid to buy.
Maybe Hyundai has the best idea: Buy it now, and if you lose your job in the next year, we'll take it back.
Every segment of the industry took a frightful pasting in January. Detroit 3 sales tumbled a staggering 47.7 percent. Import-brand sales were off 26.1 percent.
Car sales were down 37.1 percent. Truck sales fell 37.2 percent.