Automotive data and forecast firm CSM Worldwide has slashed its forecast for US light vehicle sales in 2009 to 9.7m units due to the continuing economic recession.

CSM said it expected light vehicle sales would drop to 9.7m units in 2009, down from sales of 13.2m units in 2008 and down from its own initial 2009 forecast in January of sales of 10.7m units.

North American auto production is on track to drop by an even steeper margin, hitting 8.1m vehicles in 2009, CSM said. That would be just over half of the industry’s recent peak production near 15.1m units in 2007.

“The situation is more severe and will dramatically intensify pressure on Chrysler and GM as they work to execute restructuring plans,” CSM said in a note for its clients.

“Disproportionately sharp sales declines are expected to persist at Chrysler and GM as consumers are faced with ongoing concerns surrounding the viability of the struggling companies and their respective brands,” it said.