Autos: Twenty Days in May

This time Detroit played it cool.

Automakers were acutely sensitive to the fact that troubles within their industry were getting much of the blame for the recent wobbles of the stock market as a whole. Now they had news that sounded happy on the one hand, but on the other hand was really not so good. The way they handled it was a real triumph of public relations.

In rapid succession, industry spokesmen announced that during the second ten days of May their companies' sales had gone up from the month's first ten days. That sounded pretty good. And to add...