These are the best of times for prospective auto buyers. The Big Three car makers have been falling all over themselves since last September to maintain market share, and the result has been a constant stream of sweet financing deals and hefty rebates.

The tactics from General Motors(NYSE: GM), Ford(NYSE: F), and DaimlerChrysler(NYSE: DCX) have worked, as U.S. auto sales rose 18% overall last month, compared to the same period last year -- the strongest August on record. In all, consumers snapped up some 1.7 million new cars and light trucks.

The Chrysler division took the checkered flag, tallying a remarkable 24% increase. Much of that is due to a good comparison to its relatively poor August in 2001, however. GM's sales revved up 18%, and Ford moved ahead 12%.

GM, which has pretty much forced rivals to follow in its footsteps the past year, was at it again yesterday -- extending its 0% financing offer for another two months to cover new 2003 models. Chrysler announced similar incentives, but Ford has not yet followed suit. Could its reluctance signal that we're nearing the end of the incentive wars? Perhaps, though Ford will have to come around soon in order to stay competitive with its 2003 lineup.

No matter what happens, it's been a great ride thus far for consumers.