August sales were the worst in decades

(NBC) - U.S. auto sales turned in their worst performance in three decades last month.

General Motors posted a seven percent dip in car sales in August.

There was a five percent slip in sales at Ford, while the number of Toyotas sold were down 12 percent compared to the number sold in July.

Across the board auto sales were at their lowest level since 1982, and manufacturers don't have to travel far to figure out why.

"I think what we're seeing right now is the consumer continuing to be very cautious," says General Motors' Don Johnson.

Cautious and nervous, consumers concerned about their jobs and making mortgage payments are holding off on buying big tickets items like cars.

"It's the environment around the entire industry," says IHS Automotive's George Magliano.  "The economy has hit a huge speed bump and that's hurting everybody."

Still, some automakers are optimistic.

"We still think there is some underlying strength in the economy, albeit modest, we still see it growing between now and the end of the year," Johnson says.

When compared to figures from a year ago the decline in car sales is even more dramatic, but last year at this time Americans were still benefiting from the Cash for Clunkers program.

Bucking the trend of an awful August for the automakers was Chrysler, which posted sales 11 percent higher in August than the month of July.

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