You're now entering a strange new realm, a dimension with only the faintest connection to reality as we know it, where even the most dire statistics can be painted in an impossibly rosy light. It's a little place I like to call ... the PR Zone. And Ford (NYSE:F), at least in its investor press releases, practically seems to be living there.

What else could explain why Ford's latest release presents a 19% drop in sales as anything other than an unmitigated failure? Ford wants to call it "payback" for higher levels of sales earlier in the year, but how the company gets from there to optimism for the rest of the year is a mystery to me. When you're cutting prices as aggressively as Ford, DaimlerChrysler (NYSE:DCX), and GM (NYSE:GM) have been, you should expect a lot of payback, and you'd better hope it lasts only a month.

Here's the way the winds are blowing. Remember all those giant trucks and SUVs, the ones everyone had been buying with no regard for how much gas they swill? Well, it seems they're starting to lose their appeal in a big way. SUV sales were down 51% compared with last September.

How will this play out across the entire U.S. auto industry? Analysts had been expecting a 16% drop for Ford, and GM just announced that its own sales fell 24%, slightly better than analysts' predictions. (DaimlerChrysler turned in a 4% rise against the 1.7% predicted drop.) For what it's worth, Nissan (NASDAQ:NSANY) put up a 16% sales increase for the month, and Toyota (NYSE:TM) and Honda (NYSE:HMC) are expected to gain as well. They did it, as far as I can tell, without the "employee pricing" gimmick that U.S. carmakers have resorted to in order to move their stock.

Anyone looking to invest in rolling iron in the U.S. has some gnarly trends to contend with. Yes, automakers are paying the bills with their financing divisions. But if people stop taking out so many loans -- especially big, fat SUV loans -- eventually the gravy there will dry up too. There are also major pension issues to contend with, as well as the wee disagreements with the current crop of union employees. Quite frankly, any investor who can't find a more fruitful destination for her investing dollar isn't looking very hard.

For related Foolishness:

Seth Jayson recently purchased a new car at a ridiculously low price. But they'll be making snowmen in Satan's front yard before he buys stock in an American carmaker. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.