AUTOS: Too Small, Too Soon

A gloomy stillness enveloped Ford Motor Co.'s normally bustling assembly plant in Metuchen, NJ. The plant was closed all last week to reduce a mounting backlog of unsold Pintos and Mercury Bobcats, two of the smallest models Ford produces. At the same time, a bulging inventory of Chevrolet's sub-compact Vegas prompted General Motors Corp. to eliminate a second shift at its huge superautomated plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

The cutbacks underscore a paradoxical development in a confusing model year. Sales of the 1976 cars that went on display in September have raced 37%...

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