One of the federal agencies affected by Congress' fight over a stopgap government funding bill is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
NHTSA sent more than half of its 600 workers home Tuesday and suspended safety defect investigations, field crash investigations, customer complaint reviews and notification of new vehicle and equipment recalls.
"Due to a lapse of Federal Government funding, NHTSA is unable to post any new recalls after the close business Sept. 30, 2013. Consumers can continue to file safety defect complaints via this website, but they will not be evaluated by NHTSA staff until funding and services are restored," a notice on the agency website said.
The partial government shutdown furloughed 800,000 personnel considered non-essential and also stopped the agency's consideration of new car assessments and safety regulations like rear visibility standards for vehicles.
However, Jenny Lin, U.S. economist for the Ford Motor Co., told The Detroit News the first federal government shutdown in 17 years should not affect auto sales as long as consumers have faith in the economic recovery.
Consumer confidence drives U.S. auto sales and Lin says it's "too early to tell" how an extended federal shutdown would affect future sales.
South Korean automaker Hyundai Tuesday announced its Hyundai Assurance program providing vehicle loan and lease payment relief to people who lose their jobs would begin for federal employees out of work during the shutdown.
Under the program, furloughed federal workers won't have to make vehicle payments toHyundai Capital of America until they are recalled. Any idled federal employee who wants to buy a Hyundai in October won't have to make the first payment until December.
"We recognize the impact on family budgets the furlough will drive," Hyundai Motor AmericaCEO John Krafcik said in a statement. "Like we did almost four years ago when we launched Hyundai Assurance, this is our way of saying, 'We've got your back' during this uncertain time."
Ford and Chrysler reported their September sales jumped 5.8 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively, while General Motors said sales dipped 11 percent last month.
Ford had its best September in seven years thanks to strong sales of F-Series pickups and Fusion and Fiesta passenger cars. Toyota saw U.S. sales drop 4 percent from September a year ago, Nissan reported a 6 percent sales dip and Volkswagen of America said its sales were down 12.2 percent.
Monthly vehicle sales were down for the first time in 27 months, since June 2011, partly because the Labor Day weekend came in August giving September two fewer sales days than last year.
Original headline: Auto Outlook: Federal shutdown stalled auto safety regulators
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