There were about three million fewer cars sold in 2008 than 2007. Based on 2007's numbers, it would be the same as if Acura, Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Lexus, MINI, Porsche, and Saab all closed their doors in 2008. In terms of pure automotive carnage, that's not the kind of damage you can just buff out. And the predictions for the future agree on two points: it's going to get worse, and it won't return to what it was for years to come.

The only difference in the predictions of gloom is exactly how long things are going to stay depressed. Everyone agrees that the vertiginous sales drop in Q4 of 2008 is going to continue at least until the middle of 2009. Some, though, think that 2009 will "look a lot like 2008, but in reverse," with a slight sales rebound possible in the latter half. That prediction depends on the size of the proposed economic stimulus package, and whether it actually stimulates the economy. After all, banks received their own stimulus packages, yet getting a loan is as hard as ever.

Others say we are "entering a prolonged period of conservation." One analyst predicts that U.S. car sales won't see the north side of 15 million in annual sales until "2012 or later," while another said that we won't see 16 million annual sales again "for the forseeable future." Naturally, with such conservation comes other cuts, like R&D budgets and model facelifts, that could mean the cars on offer won't be as interesting or as cutting edge as before. While that could be looked at as a benefit, saving manufacturers the need to put new redesigned cars in showrooms every three years, the necessary auto industry infrastructure changes (plant closers, layoffs, etc.), the certain extinction of some companies, and the uncertain future are going to hurt.

[Source: IHT]