SATURDAY, AUG. 2, 2008

New cars and trucks are not on shopping lists like they were last year, and automakers are reeling from the slowdown.

U.S. auto sales slumped to a 16-year low in July as automakers failed to keep up with a growing demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

And while production changes may help that problem, trouble in the credit and auto leasing markets will continue to take a toll on sales.

General Motors, Ford, Toyota and other automakers said Friday that their U.S. sales fell by double digits. Nissan Motor Co. was the only major automaker to report a gain, with truck sales up 18 percent, thanks in part to the new Rogue crossover and a boost in incentives. Nissan’s overall sales rose 8.5 percent.

July’s seasonally adjusted sales rate – which shows what sales would be if they continued at the same pace for the full year – was 12.5 million vehicles, according to Autodata Corp. That’s down from 17 million as recently as 2005.

Automakers expect things to get worse before they get better.

“We expect the second half of 2008 will be more challenging than the first half as economic and credit conditions weaken,” Ford’s marketing chief, Jim Farley, said in a statement.

Beer the natural way: Looking to stock your beer cellar with an organic brew? Washington state now has two breweries certified organic by the state Department of Agriculture.

The newest is Elliott Bay Brewing, which has breweries and pubs in West Seattle and Burien. It learned last week that a dozen of its beers have been certified organic.

The other is Fish Brewing in Olympia. Martin Bills, general manager of the brewery that makes Fish Tale Ales, said demand has grown rapidly since its first organic beer was certified in 2000.

Organic beer costs at least 30 percent more to make because the ingredients are more expensive, said Doug Hindman, head brewer at Elliott Bay. The price for customers isn’t that much higher, he said, because the brewery doesn’t pay much for distribution. It sells most of its beer at its two pubs.

Oregon has at least a dozen breweries making organic beer.

From wire reports


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