For many, credit crisis means no new car

Justin Tomlinson can’t remember the last time a customer at his dealership talked about fuel efficiency. Tomlinson, the finance manager of Honda of Fife, said no one seems to care about miles-per-gallon anymore. It's only about the bottom line and how to finance it.

"Fuel mileage is so far out of people's minds right now," Tomlinson said Wednesday.

Prospective car buyers are facing stringent requirements and growing interest rates for auto loans, leading more people to avoid the lot altogether. And that means even more drops in sales.

The credit crisis has piled on the bad news that has already hurt the auto industry. Major American and foreign automakers announced massive drops in September sales Wednesday, and uneasiness on Wall Street means a turnaround isn’t expected for a while.

Tomlinson said dealers are having trouble getting rid of cars because banks are becoming extremely stringent. Customers can’t get loans that were easily available just three months ago.

"It's tough, it really is tough," he said. "Everyone is having to work harder than you are used to."

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