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Few industries were hit harder by the recession than the auto industry. Some of the strongest companies, such as Toyota, lost money. Two of the industry's weakest players -- GM and Chrysler -- were forced into bankruptcy.

Auto sales have gotten better in recent months. Sales were essentially flat in October -- an encouraging sign since sales were not artificially boosted that month by the government's Cash for Clunkers program. Automakers are even ramping up production in the fourth quarter to replenish decreased supplies at dealerships.

Most forecasts are for modest improvement in sales across the industry in 2010. But that's contingent on an economic recovery taking hold. If job losses continue to mount and credit stays tight, the industry could be in for another year of weak sales and widespread losses. And that would likely mean more plant closings and layoffs, which in itself would be another blow to the overall economy.

NEXT: Housing

Last updated November 16 2009: 12:08 PM ET
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