Lower interest rates helped domestic automakers post their best early-November selling period since 1978. But the improvement is too late and too little to make 1982 a winner, industry analysts said yesterday.

The five companies producing cars in the United States sold 187,641 autos between Nov. 1 and Nov. 10, a 17.3 percent increase over the 142,233 sold a year ago.

The percentage increase was based on daily selling rates because there were nine selling days in the 1982 period compared with eight last year.

The five companies sold a daily average of 20,849 cars in early November, the best performance since 1978, when the average was 26,658 cars. Last year's early-November daily rate was 17,779 cars.

The new November figures also looked good on a seasonally adjusted annual rate -- 6.5 million cars this year compared with 5.9 million for the period in 1981. The 1978 annualized rate in early November was about 9.1 million new cars.

The current increase "clearly is attributable" to lower interest rates and other sales incentives used by the top three automakers to clear out leftover 1982 models, said analyst Harvey Heinbach of New York-based Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith Inc.

Here are the latest company-by-company car sales, by company rank in the domestic industry:

* General Motors Corp. -- up 21.9 percent, from 90,811 in early November last year to 124,566. GM lowered its financing rate on new 1982 cars from about 17.5 percent to 10.9 percent on Nov. 1.

* Ford Motor Co. -- up 18.9 percent, from 30,280 in the year-ago period to 40,515. Ford lowered its loan rate on remaining 1982s and still-leftover, factory-new 1981 models to 10 3/4 percent.

* Chrysler Corp. -- off 2 1/2 percent, with mitigating factors. The company has a popular sales incentives program, but its five Canadian plants have been on strike for nearly two weeks. Chrysler said it sold 16,791 between Nov. 1 and Nov. 10 this year compared with 15,309 in the same period of 1981. This year's period had one more selling day.

* American Motors Corp. -- up 17.7 percent, from 2,790 in the year-ago period to 3,700. The bright spot here is that AMC has no sales incentive program in place. Company officials say the increase is based largely on consumer response to AMC's 1983 Alliance car line. Analysts agree.

* Volkswagen of America -- down 39 1/2 percent, with 2,069 units sold for early November 1982 compared with 3,043 in the same period last year. VWOA, cornered by competitors in styling and fuel efficiency, has had trouble clearing its overpopulated Rabbit warren.