This has been the best sales year in the history of the industry. But it also has been a disaster for some automakers and a struggle for others.
Sales this year will surpass last year's record by about a half-million vehicles. Most dealers have enjoyed another record year in profits as well as sales. For the retail automobile business, this has been a very good year.
Suppliers have shipped more product then ever before, but most are missing their forecasts, and Wall Street has put automakers and suppliers near the bottom of the investment list.
How could we have had a great year and a crummy year at the same time?
Car companies have fought savagely for every sale.
If it took rebates to make a sale, so be it. No one wanted to lose market share so you had to match the other guy dollar for dollar.
Meanwhile, the Asian makers, benefiting from a strong dollar, turned up the heat on everything they could ship. The European makers' high-end vehicles also took advantage of the strong dollar.
So the Asians and Europeans are shipping back lots of dollars as they ring up record profits and sales in the United States.
It's a tough business climate, and chances are it's not going to get any easier next year.
Consumers realize that they don't have to buy today, although they are willing to take advantage of a great bargain.
And there are some really great bargains out there, even if the industry is stealing sales from the future.
Sooner or later, those stolen sales will hurt business, although it might be possible to delay the pain if business stays competitive.
No one is going to yell 'uncle.' No one can afford to lose any market share, but no one can afford to maintain market share at these costs.
It's a classic Catch-22, and the customer is the winner.
There will be casualties.
The real problem is that everyone has ratcheted up to a new breakeven point, and there is no turning back.
You can't turn the calendar back a couple of years and pretend that it's the good old days.
Those days are gone, and the industry's breakeven is a couple of million units higher, with too much capacity in the wrong places.
The next couple of years will be interesting.