Slowdown in auto sales adds to California's fiscal woes

With less fanfare than the housing slump or the stock market slide, car sales are dragging down California's economy.

Sales of new cars and light trucks fell 19.1 percent in the third quarter to levels last seen 12 years ago, according to an industry report released on Monday by the California New Car Dealers Association. It predicted sales next year will likely fall more.

The gloomy numbers depict an auto industry in California held hostage to falling home prices, heavy household debt and a downshifting economy. Consumers have slowed spending, especially for big-ticket items such as cars and trucks.

And as auto sales erode, local governments are feeling the squeeze.

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