March auto sales faring no better

Car sales are down about 40% so far this month, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

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By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com senior writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Auto sales in the first two weeks of March were down 40% compared to the same period last year, according to industry analysts at J.D. Power and Associates.

Over the entire month, car dealers are expected to sell 633,000 cars and trucks to retail customers. That's compared to 1.07 million retail sales in March 2008. Including fleet sales, J.D. Power expects a total 798,000 new vehicle sales in March. That would translate to annual sales for the year of about 9.2 million new cars and trucks. In 2008 automakers sold a total of 13.2 million vehicles despite a sharp falloff in sales during in the last few months of the year.

J.D. Power analysts don't expect the market to stay quite this bad, however.

"We're still seeing economic headwinds and reduced consumer demand for new vehicles, making it a tough marketplace,"said Gary Dilts, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, we anticipate that improvements on Wall Street and a boost in consumer confidence will help to bring the market back.

In February, sales were down 41% compared to the previous year, with the worst declines seen among U.S.-based automakers Ford (F, Fortune 500), General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) and Chrysler. To top of page

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