Automakers trimmed vehicle stocks in February despite weak sales.
But inventory levels still reached the highest March 1 figure since 1993.
Inventories shrank to 78 days on March 1, down from 86 days on Feb. 1. A year ago, stocks stood at 59 days as March began.
General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group all trimmed inventories as the companies prepare to schedule second-quarter production.
GM has issued a preliminary second-quarter forecast calling for an almost 10 percent production cut compared with 2002, says Paul Ballew, GM executive director of market and industry analysis.
Chrysler group CEO Dieter Zetsche says the company plans no imminent production cuts. Uncharacteristically, Ford Motor Co. has delayed issuing a second-quarter forecast.
"February was not a normal month," says George Pipas, Ford spokesman. "We are trying to assess the impact of economic and geopolitical factors impacting consumer confidence and sales."
GM cut its stock to an 88-days supply on March 18, down from 97 days at the start of February. On March 1, Ford stood at 83 days, down from 93 days a month earlier. Ford continues to maintain high F-series volume as it prepares to introduce a redesigned model. F-series stock stood at 101 days on March 1.
Declining inventories at Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler trimmed the Chrysler group's stocks to 75 days on March 1, down from 102 days when February began.