Car sales take a dive; Remembering Clay Felker

Behind The News
July 1, 2008 1:01:01 PM PDT
You don't have to have an MBA from Harvard to quickly see why the car industry is in trouble. The big car companies today released their sales figures for June - and they all tumbled. Ford was down 28%, Toyota was down 21%, GM slid 18%. In fact, June was the worst month so far in 2008 -- a year that is already absolutely miserable. Pickup trucks and SUV's are sitting, unsold, in most lots. And the trade-in values for these gas guzzling vehicles are so low, many owners have not much incentive to bring their old SUV's in and get a new car.

What is shocking is how slow the auto industry has been to respond to the rising price of gas, and the demand for more fuel-efficient cars. Call a few car dealers and ask about hybrids, and they'll tell you the wait is measured in terms of months.

How did this happen? Why haven't these car companies kept up with public demand? And what happens to one of the nation's biggest industries if this drop in sales trend continues? We're exploring the answers, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, a bizarre freedom of speech debate in the Passaic County borough of Hawthorne. A man named Andrew Gause was ticketed last February for putting a "Ron Paul for President" sign on his front yard.

Turns out - that's illegal in Hawthorne; local law allows political lawn signs only 32 days before the general election and 7 days after. Now the ACLU is suing the borough of Hawthorne, claiming that the law is unconstitutional.

Lucy Yang is on the story for us tonight.

We're also keeping tabs on what could be a strike by 9,000 Con Ed workers at midnight. Both the union and the giant utility are at the bargaining table tonight, after a 72-hour cooling off period. Wages, health care costs and pensions remain the main points of disagreement. Con Ed supervisors say they're ready to step in to keep service running if there is a strike. We'll see.

And we'll remember Clay Felker, the ground-breaking editor who revolutionized the magazine industry. Felker, the founding editor of "New York," died here today. He was 82, and had been battling throat cancer. His wife, the writer Gail Sheehy, was by his side.

Felker's legacy isn't just the new genre of magazine he introduced, but also the new genre of magazine writers -- which included Tom Wolfe, Ken Auletta, Jimmy Breslin, Gloria Steinhem, and Dick Schaap.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Marvell Scott (in for Scott Clark) with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.