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2008 US Auto Sales Lowest in Decade

Vehicle sales in the United States were sharply lower for nearly all auto companies, and the two largest U.S. manufacturers reported the lowest number of sales in nearly five decades.

General Motors reported Monday that its sales dropped 31 percent in December, and fell 23 percent for all of last year. It sold fewer vehicles in 2008 than any year since 1959.

Ford says its U.S. sales plunged by almost one-third between November and December, and about 20 percent for all of 2008, the lowest number of sales in 47 years.

Chrysler reported a 53 percent plunge in December. For the full year 2008, the company's sales slid 30 percent.

Japan-based Toyota and Honda fared better than their American competitors in 2008, despite suffering greater declines in December.

Toyota reported a 16 percent drop in U.S. sales for 2008, and a 37 percent decline in December. Honda's U.S. sales dropped 35 percent in December, and eight percent for the year.

Skyrocketing gasoline prices first slowed vehicle sales in the beginning of 2008, but recent declines in energy prices have done little to help the industry recover.

The U.S. economic crisis has limited access to loans for many potential buyers, and job cuts have discouraged others from buying vehicles.

U.S. automakers are a key part of the American economy, and lawmakers are considering giving the industry more financial aid to survive the economic crisis.

The Bush administration has already given $13 billion in loans to General Motors and Chrysler. Critics of an even bigger bailout say the companies should not be rewarded for bad business practices, such as pumping out gas-guzzling sports-utility vehicles instead of energy-saving hybrids.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP, Bloomberg and Reuters.