Ford Motor Co. broke with its major competitors by increasing stock during July.
Ford moved to a 66-day supply on Aug. 1, from 61 days on July 1, while other large automakers trimmed their supplies. U.S. industry stocks contracted to a 56-day supply on Aug. 1, from 61 the previous month, matching the seasonal pattern of the past two decades.
But Ford's increase was welcome for an automaker that said its 11 percent July sales gain would have been larger if it had had enough of three key models.
Ford started August with more of its best-selling cars, the Focus and Fusion, than it had a month earlier. It even boosted the Explorer SUV to a 39-day supply, from 37 on July 1, although supplies of that model likely will remain tight until Ford adds a second production site in the fall.
Industry inventory dropped by a third of a million units to 2.9 million on Aug. 1 -- the first time this year it has been that low, even though July sales jumped 14 percent from a year earlier.
Automakers continue to match production to sales carefully, keeping stock in check.
The truck-heavy Detroit 3, whose dealers normally maintain lots of pickups to be sure they have all the cab and powertrain variants on hand, started August just above the widely perceived industry ideal of a 60- to 65-day supply.
Toyota Motor Sales, American Honda, Nissan North America and Volkswagen Group of America all clustered near the 50-day mark. Hyundai-Kia America had the tightest stock among major players with a 41-day supply.