That suits the automakers fine, said Paul Ballew, General Motors' executive director of market and industry analysis.
"We shouldn't lose sight of how many units of inventory we had to take out (last year) in order to get inventories in line," he said. Excess inventory feeds spiraling incentives - a situation automakers would like to avoid in 2002.
There was a moderate 57-day supply as of Dec. 1, compared with only 45 days a month earlier. The month-ago figure was the lowest of any month in at least a decade, thanks to 0 percent loans that touched off record October sales.
The number of vehicles in inventory also increased, to just more than 3 million on Dec. 1. That was up 3.7 percent compared with the Nov. 1 level. On Dec. 1, 2000, inventories were higher by more than 750,000 units, at a three-year high of 77 days.
DaimlerChrysler, including Mercedes-Benz, had a 64-day supply Dec. 1, up from 56 a month earlier. The Chrysler group said its units in inventory were down 19 percent from the year-ago quarter.
GM had a 65-day supply Dec. 1, up from 45 a month earlier. On Dec. 3, GM reported a first-quarter 2002 production forecast of 1.3 million vehicles, a 7 percent increase compared with the year-ago quarter.
Ford Motor Co. had a 54-day supply Dec. 1, up from 42 a month earlier.
George Pipas, Ford's sales analysis and reporting manager, pointed out that Ford cut 0 percent incentives on some models, such as the Escape sport wagon, effective Nov. 1, because inventories were low.