Business: Detroit's Road Is Still Rocky

Big sticker prices and sky-high interest rates strangle sales

Detroit's auto executives have hoped for months that the arrival of new fuel-efficient small cars in dealers' showrooms this fall would end the industry's nearly two-year-long sales slump. So far, that has not happened. Sales of U.S.-made cars in November declined 8.3% from 1979's depressed levels, and they were down 17% for the month's final ten days.

The automakers' hopes for a sales surge have been dashed against the rocks of high sticker prices and staggering interest rates. Only five years ago, $5,000 would have...