[09/01/16]  It was a good run while it lasted. But a bigger-than-expected decline in the August auto sales numbers reported on Thursday indicated that the industry’s long and robust growth cycle may have reached its end.

For six years, since the end of the economic recession, automakers have enjoyed a steadily growing market in the United States, as monthly sales routinely surpassed those of the previous year.

On Thursday, though, manufacturers reported that overall sales in August fell about 4 percent compared to a year earlier. The decrease was larger than generally forecast by analysts, who said...

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