Detroit Could Use An Air Bag Itself

Prepare for the worst. That's the auto industry's strategy for 1991. U. S. sales of new cars and trucks may fall only 4%, to 13.5 million vehicles. But that's down 17% from the 16.3 million vehicles sold in 1986, the last peak year. That five-year slide has provided time to adjust to lower volume. But the carmakers are starting to recall the old joke about jumping out a fifth-story window: The first four floors aren't so terrible, then comes the crash. The only way they may avoid one is if lower interest rates and a resolution of the Mideast crisis restore consumer confidence.

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