Report: U.S. Auto Sales Will Continue to Decline

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After a string of strong years, U.S. auto sales are slowing and an increasing number of forecasts say sales could fall next year to their lowest in nearly a decade, the Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site on Monday.

Slowing growth in the overall U.S. economy and a slump in the housing industry, particularly in big markets such as California, come at a bad time for General Motors Corp. (GM), Ford Motor Co. (F) and DaimlerChrysler AG's (DCX) Chrysler Group, the paper said.

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IRN, a Michigan market researcher, forecasts U.S. 2007 sales of 16.3 million light vehicles, or cars and trucks. That would be the lowest since 1998 and a drop of 300,000, or 1.8 percent, from this year's expected sales of 16.6 million vehicles.

Some auto makers are more optimistic, the paper says, with both GM and Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) forecasting 2007 industry sales of 16.5 million cars and trucks.

But analysts at Bank of America, Wachovia Corp. and Citigroup expect a sharper decline, as does investor Wilbur Ross, who has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the past 18 months buying battered auto suppliers, the WSJ says.

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