August sales were peachy keen, but what does the U.S. auto industry do for an encore?
Was August the beginning of the long-awaited recovery, or was it a one-time phenomenon brought about by cash for clunkers?
Unfortunately, the latter is far more likely -- at least in the short run. September sales probably will return to the depressed levels of the past year.
But August was good, so enjoy it while you can. The month's car and light-truck sales of 1,262,189 were 1.0 percent (12,072 units) more than a weak August 2008.
Also on the plus side, it was the best monthly total since May 2008. It was the highest count this year, and it was the first million-plus performance since August of last year.
The year to date was a different and less-satisfying story. The total of 7,070,751 was down 27.9 percent from last year.
Cash for clunkers pushed the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales to 13.7 million in August -- but no applause, please. It was 11.1 million in July and is likely to be less than that in September.