Dangerous Curves Ahead

As sales slide, Detroit braces for a bad patch

The wintry wind of recession is beginning to batter Detroit. Car-dealer showrooms have become uncomfortably quiet in the past several weeks. Consumers are staying away because of increasing layoffs, widespread credit tightening among banks and climbing gasoline prices. Detroit has tried to keep sales up by discounting aggressively, but that has only hurt profits. When the Big Three posted their third-quarter earnings last week, the results were dismal. Ford's profits fell 79% from a year ago, to $101.7 million, its worst performance in eight years. Chrysler fared even worse, showing a $214 million loss, compared with a $331 million profit a...

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