Sales of North American-made vehicles tumbled 20.4 percent in late November compared with last year, mainly because of a sharp slump in truck sales.
Light truck sales fell 28.5 percent and car sales dropped 15.2 percent.
Among the Big Three automakers, sales of Ford Motor Co. vehicles dropped 30.1 percent; General Motors Corp. fell 22.5 percent, and Chrysler Corp.'s were down 17.4 percent. The Big Three held 68.3 percent of the market for the month.
Combined, the Big Three and the seven Japanese companies making cars and trucks in the United States reported they sold an average of 29,510 vehicles during the Nov. 21-30 period this year, compared with a daily rate of 37,062 during the same time last year.
"Sales have been fairly good this summer and fall," said auto analyst David Healy of the investment firm Barclays de Zoete Wedd in New York. "That thump you heard was car sales falling out of bed."
"You have to go back to early October 1982 to find a (sales) rate lower than that in the last 10 days (of November)," Healy said. At that time, the U.S. economy was in the midst of a deep recession.
For the month of November, with major overseas automakers included, combined car and truck sales were 4.3 percent behind last year's pace. Car sales fell 1.5 percent and truck sales were off 9.6 percent.