Any visitor to the huge port at Los Angeles will be left in no doubt as to the dire state of the world's car industry. Thousands of cars worth about $40m (£27m) wait unsold on the dockside, victims of the recession: the refusal of the banks to lend to people has restricted the supply of car loans, while fears of job losses have sent consumer confidence plunging to the lowest depths in decades.
A new car is the ultimate "big ticket" item, usually bought on a finance deal – and almost indefinitely postponeable. US car sales are down 16 per cent this year, which has sent the "Big Three" of GM, Ford and Chrysler to the brink of collapse; it has hurt Asian and European makers too. Lower American demand means, for example, fewer Land Rover Jaguars being sold across the pond, and short-time working in the Midlands and Merseyside factories that build them. No wonder the IMF says that the world's advanced economies, as a group, will contract next year – the first time this has happened since the Second World War.
The motor industry was one of the first to embrace globalisation; it is now one of the most visible victims of the global slowdown.