Wards Auto began tracking North American light-vehicle production capacity utilization in 2005, and last year produced the highest amount on record: 97.8 percent of available production was utilized, an improvement of 9.3 percent versus the year before. The number represents straight-time capacity plus things like the addition of a third shift or a third crew and worker overtime due to less vacations. Production with straight-time capacity utilizing two shifts still came out to 97.1 percent in 2012, an improvement of 13.7 percent versus 2011.

In the US, capacity use was 91 percent, a rise of 12.2 percent year-on-year; the only plants to show a decline were the Ford/Mazda facility in Flat Rock that ceased production of the Mazda6 last year and where the Ford Fusion is now built, and the Subaru plant in Indiana that produces the Toyota Camry alongside Subaru vehicles. In Canada, the capacity-use numbers jumped 19.4 percent to 99.6 percent, and in Mexico overutilization was the theme, their plants running at 124 percent. The Mexican situation isn't new, that country exceeding 100 percent of capacity utilization in 2010 and 2011 as well. In total, 15.6 million vehicles were produced last year in North America, 842,000 more than in 2011.