Analysts Expect Drop In August Auto Sales

NEW YORK (AP) -- August auto sales are expected to be much lower than the year-ago month, a time when sales were pumped up by the federal government's Cash for Clunkers vehicle trade-in program, according to analyst predictions.

The seasonally adjusted annual rates for the month may also suggest that the auto industry's steady recovery in the first half of the year is losing steam, the analysts predicted.

The August results are "unlikely to ease investors doubts about the shape of the recovery for the auto industry," wrote Brian Johnson of Barclays Capital.

Johnson estimates August sales will show a SAAR of 11.5 million units, matching the July sales figure. But he also predicted that retail sales to consumers will pull back, with fleet sales making up the difference.

Wachovia forecast a slightly higher SAAR of 11.7 million units for the month. That would be lower than the 14.1 million figure in the year-ago August, the month when the majority of the nearly 700,000 Cash for Clunkers sales occurred. But the results would represent an improvement over July.

Wachovia predicted that General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group would all post stronger sales than July.

Automakers report their August sales on Wednesday.

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