Vehicle production in North America is back near record levels, with output forecast to surpass 16 million units this year for the first time in more than a decade.
But even though the numbers look similar to the days when Detroit used sky-high incentives to grapple with bloated inventories, the industry is in a much different place this time around.
Dozens of assembly and parts plants closed during the recession. Automakers now are running many plants around the clock to keep up with rising demand yet proceeding cautiously to ensure they don't get ahead of the market.
The result is big profits all around and little danger, analysts say, of resuming old habits of overproduction and fire-sale discounts. That's because the increased production isn't expected to result in more units going into the North American market.
A large portion of the increased output stems from automakers exporting more vehicles from North America. Also, Japanese manufacturers are shifting production to U.S. and Mexican plants to blunt the effect of a stronger yen.
Meanwhile, even as sales keep growing, each of the Detroit 3 says it sees no need to build or reopen plants in North America.
"There's always ways in manufacturing to figure out how to make more," says Jim Tetreault, vice president of North American manufacturing at Ford Motor Co., which is increasing its annual capacity in the region by 600,000 units over an 18-month period that began in mid-2012. Ford also is cutting its usual two-week summer shutdown in half at many plants.
"The trend at Ford is we're going to run more and more hours," Tetreault says. "Our goal moving forward is to try to continue to up that operating capacity."