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Auto Sales Run Out of Gas

As I'm reading the December auto sales numbers, it's clear 2006 will be remembered as a bleak one for the big 3.

Look at their numbers for the final month of the year.

None of those will change the fact that each of those automakers saw sales drop between 7 and 9 percent last year.

Today, on its sales conference call, Ford said its sales actually exceeded the company's internal guidance and GM touted retail sales jumping 10% and transaction prices rising 8%.

But the fact is, the big three all limp out of 2006 in some fashion -- and it's hard to say when they will be better. The healthiest of the trio, GM, is still not cash flow positive. And even though the company is in better shape today than a year ago, the fact remains, it's still in a turnaround.

Meanwhile, Chrysler prepares for a restructuring to be announced in the weeks to come, and Ford has mortgaged itself to fund a multi-year, multi-million dollar recovery.

So say good bye and good riddance to the 2006 year in the auto industry. Let's see if this year is a smoother ride for the big 3.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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