It's the opposite of their woes during the recession, but it's a problem for automakers nonetheless: U.S. sales have grown so strong in some segments that factories can no longer keep up with demand.
July sales rose 11 percent from a year ago at Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group, and both companies said they have been hampered by production constraints. Hyundai-Kia Automotive, which has struggled with supply shortages all year, posted just a 5 percent gain last month.
Total industry sales increased 14 percent, the largest year-over-year gain since January. It was the first month this year that no automakers reported a decline.
And it could have been better. Erich Merkle, Ford's chief sales analyst, said: "Lean inventories on some of our hottest vehicles muted the increase."
Going into July, automakers had inventories of nearly 3.3 million vehicles, the most since Dec. 1, 2008. But the 1.3 million light vehicles sold during the month marked the industry's strongest July since 2006.
As July ended, the number of people making new unemployment claims fell to a 51/2-year low and Wall Street surged to record highs. But consumers who wander into showrooms this month could find their options limited.
"We're coming off a couple of big months, and they've done a good job of trying to keep up, but I think it's going to start hitting us this month," said Stephanie Malone, the general manager at Walnut Creek Ford near San Francisco.
Amid dwindling supplies of the Fusion, C-Max, Escape and Explorer, Malone said the dealership will encourage customers to order a vehicle from the factory so they can pick the features they want. The downside is a wait of four to six weeks.