Considering the aggressive price cutting that car manufacturers use to boost spring and summer sales and the squeeze on production brought on by the GM strike, you might think there would be slim pickings in end-of-the-model-year bargains this fall.

You'd be wrong.This is not only the time to push '98s out the door, it is also the season when dealers compete for bragging rights for the year's best-selling automobiles.

Such jockeying should produce interesting rivalries and enticing bargains, says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, a marketing-consulting firm in Santa Ana, Calif.

Although Ford has disavowed an expensive push to win best-seller rights for the Taurus, Peterson thinks that may change because the car is "within shooting distance of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry."

Strong demand has traditionally protected Honda and Toyota from the need to dive headlong into the discounting wars. But while Honda seems to be holding fast on the Accord, Toyota has been dishing out rebates, cut-rate financing and special leases on its popular Camrys.

Many 1999 models will remain virtually unchanged from their 1998 counterparts. By picking up a car at the end of the '98 production run, you have a good chance for a twofer: You could pocket a year-end discount and avoid whatever price hike the manufacturer slaps on for next year.

Some deals to consider:

Chevrolet's Venture (Kiplinger's target price for the base model with automatic transmission, air conditioning and destination charges included: $21,751) recently carried a $1,000 rebate in some parts of the country and an equal dealer incentive in others.

Mazda's MPV LX ($22,517) will be indistinguishable from next year's version.

Lincoln's front-wheel-drive Continental ($35,682) recently carried a $1,000 rebate plus a $2,000 dealer incentive in some regions.

Lincoln Town Car ($35,771) had a $2,000 dealer discount, too.

The Infiniti Q45 ($44,487) recently carried up to $3,500 in incentives.

The Cadillac Catera ($29,825) offered dealers up to $3,500 in incentives.

The Oldsmobile Aurora ($33,759) offered $2,000 in rebates.

Remember that rebates are paid directly to customers; dealer incentives go to dealers, to be shared with customers or not - it may depend on how tough a bargainer you are.

Because rebates and dealer incentives come and go, our target prices do not reflect such discounts. Subtract such breaks from the target price, not the sticker price, when you prepare to negotiate.