The January 2009 sales numbers are downright gruesome. In fact, the seasonably adjusted annualized selling rate is the worst this country has seen since 1982. Only 656,976 cars and trucks were sold, which represents a SAAR of 9.57 million vehicles, or, roughly translated, every automakers worst nightmare. Just about everyone was affected, domestic and import, with a drop of 37% compared to January 2008. But enough doom and gloom, automakers see a silver lining in retail sales statistics.

While sales continue to plummet month to month, retail sales have steadied. The real culprit of the December to January sales drop had a lot more to do with declining fleet sales. That decline was huge, as GM and Chrysler each lost 80% of their bulk business, while Ford dropped 65%. CNW Market Research is anticipating 2009 fleet sales to drop by 1.3 million units versus 2008 figures; a massive chunk of the expected sales decline. Hope can also come in the form of the stimulus bill going through the Senate. A provision in the bill gives new car buyers the ability to write off loan interest, which can save $1,500 on a $25,000 purchase.

Although the retail picture is stabilizing, credit is still a problem for some automakers. Herculean incentive offerings have actually helped bring in foot traffic at some dealerships, but still-tight credit isn't allowing consumers to pull the trigger. One metro Detroit Chrysler dealer lost 26 sales due to insufficient credit scores. That's gotta hurt. Was January 2009 the worst of it? We hope so, but we wouldn't be surprised to see more of the same in the months ahead.

[Source: Detroit Free Press | Image: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty]

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