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Detroit Braces for Year of Slower Sales by Idling Auto Plants

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Fiat Chrysler is sending workers home at four factories. Ford has two operating on fewer shifts and two others no longer building discontinued products. And General Motors Co. may dial back output despite being just a couple months removed from enduring its longest strike in almost half a century.

Detroit’s three automakers are bracing for a slower year of U.S. sales by tapping the brakes on production. And they’re not alone: Researcher LMC Automotive projects that five of the six largest North American manufacturers will assemble fewer vehicles this quarter than a year ago.

Arguably the biggest concern the auto industry has going into 2020 is how much longer the good times will last after years of strong demand and rich pricing. While companies just sold over 17 million vehicles for a fifth consecutive year, more of their volume went to rental companies and other fleet purchasers. American consumers, who have been buying fewer new cars and trucks for several years, are finding them less affordable as the average window sticker approaches $35,000.

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