Inventories dipped below the benchmark 60-day supply in December.
The overall light-vehicle industry had a 56-day supply as of Jan. 1, down from a 60-day supply a month earlier. The Dec. 1, 1998, level was the highest since May 1, before General Motors suffered two-month UAW strikes that shut down nearly all its production.
'Inventories are down, sales are good, production schedules should be strong,' said Stephen Girsky, auto industry analyst for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. in New York, in a speech last week to the Automotive News World Congress. (See story on Page 26.)
Girsky said he was bullish on auto stocks overall, but he said Ford Motor Co. was especially well positioned with around $14 billion in net cash - total cash minus debt.
Ford had a 63-day supply on Jan. 1, down from 66. The Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition sport-utilities were in short supply, each at 35 days.
Both General Motors and Daim-lerChrysler Corp. had a 65-day supply. DaimlerChrysler's inventory was unchanged from a month earlier. GM was down from 71 days a month earlier. Oldsmobile car models stood at 84 days, down from 105. The new Cadillac Escalade sport-utility was listed at only two days.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. had a 24-day supply after selling more than 55,000 Camrys in December. That nailed down the Camry's spot as the No. 1-selling car for the second year in a row. Both Toyota and Lexus had record December and annual sales.
Toyota and Lexus were also No. 1 and No. 2 in December for sales per dealer.