Is industry discipline slip-sliding away?

Today there's a new voice asking if the U.S. auto industry is losing its steely discipline and about to relapse into sin.

As auto sales head toward completing a fourth straight year of robust growth since the Great Recession, everybody is bracing for a breakdown in the collective virtue of balanced production and sales, the restrained sales incentives and lean inventories. It's natural to worry. This has been a long recovery so far by historical standards. Nobody wants to see it end. And nobody wants those fat profits to fall.

With so much vigilance against backsliding, more analysts and industry executives are blowing the whistle. So far, mostly false alarms. Or at least we can convince ourselves they're not real problems.

But this one is harder to dismiss. Who says pricing and incentive discipline is slipping? Two hundred industry executives do.

In a third annual survey of industry confidence by Booz & Co., 75 percent of the automaker and supplier executives said sales incentives would jump by winter. Another 23 percent said they already have.

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