The new rules of car buying

You can hardly escape the grim news surrounding the car industry: an 11th-hour federal loan package to help General Motors and Chrysler survive to the new year, frugal consumers shying away from big-ticket purchases – especially four-wheeled ones – and tighter credit making it tougher for the few willing buyers to borrow. November auto sales plunged 37% from a year earlier, according to Autodata, a sales tracking firm. Even after production cutbacks, ports are stacked high with new cars that can’t fit on dealer lots.

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