Automakers had a rough go of it in 2008, when sales of new cars and trucks fell to 13.2 million units after several years of selling 16-million plus. October, November and December registered the worst annualized rates in 28 years at just 10.5 million, 10.1 million and 10.3 million vehicles, respectively. Cars are one of the first big-ticket items that consumers buy when they start to feel good again. When new vehicle sales stabilize at any level and then start to tick higher it will provide a solid read on the mood of consumers, who collectively are two-thirds of the economy. "It's only fear that's holding consumers back," says James Smith, chief economist at Parsec Financial Management. "They have money $56.5 trillion of net worth and the products available are attractive and well priced." They just need to start feeling a little better about the economy and their financial future.
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