As the surfers might say, the auto business in California is a total wipeout.
In the first quarter, new-vehicle sales in the Golden State fell 43 percent to 231,726, according to the California New Car Dealers Association. That compares with a 38.4 percent decline for the country as a whole. If the trend continues, fewer than 1 million new vehicles will be sold in California this year for the first time since 1975.
Toyota, the top-selling brand in the top-selling state, was down 45.1 percent to 46,743 units in California during the quarter. No. 2 Honda was off 39.9 percent to 25,725, and No. 3 Ford brand fell 43.8 percent to 24,235.
What's the deal in California? Dealers say that as real estate values in the state shot up this decade, owners used home equity loans to buy vehicles. But in California, the the nation's housing crisis struck first and hit hardest.