Inventories remained tight in August as automakers reduced supplies of 2010 models.
The U.S. industry had a 52-day supply of vehicles on Sept. 1, no change from Aug. 1, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
The Detroit 3 say they are determined to break their bad habits of recent years. They want to keep supplies lean, which elevates transaction prices, boosts the values of used and off-lease cars and reduces profit-eroding incentives.
On the other hand, many dealers say they could sell more vehicles if automakers would deliver more.
Joel Ewanick, vice president of U.S. marketing at General Motors Co., praised his staff's preparations for the 2011 model year.
"The sales guys have done a phenomenal job of model transition," Ewanick said in late August. "We have very few 2010s left. The incentives are being used the way they were meant to be used."
GM had a 61-day supply on Sept. 1. Sixty days is considered normal, although major Japanese automakers typically keep supplies at 45 to 50 days.
In previous years, the industry's supply was well above current levels. For instance, it was 61 days on Sept. 1, 2008, and 57 days on Sept. 1, 2007.
Last year on Sept. 1, inventories -- reduced by the federal government's cash-for-clunkers incentives -- were at 30 days.