msnbc.com
updated 10/2/2008 1:48:45 PM ET 2008-10-02T17:48:45

Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally doesn’t expect the automotive sector to improve in the year ahead, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The year ahead will not be any better than 2008 for the industry, Mulally said at the Paris Motor Show this week. He added that he thinks the economic slump in the United States will be “deeper and longer” than most people previously expected. The report also said Mulally thinks volatility in the market makes it hard to say if U.S. sales will begin rising again in 2010.

Mulally also said the global auto industry is slowing down — a trend likely to crimp automakers’ revenue, according to the Journal.

Although he said cost-cutting may be required for automakers to deal with a slowing industry, Mulally also said a bankruptcy filing for Ford is unlikely.

Mulally’s comments come as new data show U.S. auto sales dropped below 1 million last month for the first time in more than 15 years, as some consumers struggled to get financing and others were frightened away from showrooms by bank failures and turmoil on Wall Street.

Americans bought 964,873 vehicles in September, the lowest sales figure since February 1993, according to Autodata Corp. and the Edmunds.com automotive Web site. Sales fell 27 percent compared with September 2007, with every major brand but General Motors Corp. reporting drops of at least 24 percent.

“It was tantamount, really, to a natural disaster,” said George Pipas, top sales analyst for Ford, which saw sales slide 34 percent, its worst month of the year.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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