"Cash for Clunkers" is beginning to seem like the defibrillator that jolted the auto industry back to life.

In the short term, it has boosted sales and left some dealers with surprisingly small inventories. But whether the program's boost will drive the industry back to health is debatable.

Automakers' sales numbers for July show the program, now about a dozen days old, fueled a surge in new-car sales. It helped Ford's sales numbers return to positive territory for the first time in 19 months.

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