The unexpectedly strong U.S. sales pace in the first two months of 2002 caughtof North America Inc. by surprise and left the importer with a continuing tight supply of vehicles in the U.S. “I was too pessimistic because business turned out better than I thought it would be in December,” BMWNA Chairman and CEO Tom Purves says. “We've seen our floor traffic increase, and there's a steady improvement.” The fast pace — BMW sales are up 14% in 2002 — has depleted inventory. “We're working hand-to-mouth,” Purves says. “The selection is relatively thin for customers.” BMW is running a 20-day supply of cars, on average, and some models are in much shorter supply than that. Sales are exceeding what BMW plants can supply, most plants are running flat out, “and there's a finite number that we can produce this year.” The product shortage could continue until BMW's Leipzig, Germany, plant starts producing 3-Series cars, three years from now.