U.S. auto sales may slip into negative territory for the year, as plunging demand for passenger cars and costlier loans wipe out a stronger-than-expected start to 2018.

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Sales probably slowed to an annualized rate of about 17.3 million in October, compared with 17.9 million a year earlier, with analysts expecting Nissan, General Motors and Ford to lead declines among the biggest automakers.A market that was cruising in the first half of the year on strong demand for sport utility vehicles including Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep Cherokee has succumbed to interest-rate hikes, making it more expensive for consumers to finance new-car purchases.Even if you’ve got fresh metal to sell, Americans aren’t interested in sedans: Demand for Toyota’s Camry and Honda’s Accord are down, despite recent redesigns and Detroit’s pullback from car segments.

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Carmakers sold roughly 21,000 more vehicles through the first nine months of the year than a year earlier, according to the researcher Autodata, so it won’t take much of a drop in October for the industry to be in decline for the year.Analysts expect that Ford probably rode big fleet sales of F-Series trucks and Transit vans back into the No. 3 position in the U.S. market, after Fiat Chrysler crept ahead in September.Still, Ford has another company hot on its heels: Its Lincoln luxury brand is holding a slim lead through the first nine months over Volvo, the Swedish carmaker it sold to China’s Geely in 2010.

–With assistance from John Lippert.

Source: Driving

October 31, 2018