Ford rides clunkers to big gains

On Monday, the Ford Motor Company (F) reported its July auto sales. The automaker, which watched its numbers plunge with 2008 gas price increases and the subsequent recession, said that it is experiencing a significant uptick for the first time in almost two years.

Including Volvo, Ford's sales totaled 165,279 automobiles, a 2.3 percent increase over last July's 161,530. Although modest, this jump is quite significant, as it represents the company's first monthly increase since November 2007. Analysts have cited a variety of factors for the improvement, though all agree that the government's Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) -- a.k.a. "cash for clunkers" -- was the primary cause of the increased sales. Offering cash rebates of up to $4500 for applicable new car purchases, the program has given a major boost to the automotive industry.