Lots and Lots on Lots of Lots

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
lots and lots on lots of lots

The automotive spinmeisters were busy at the beginning of the month. They were either bragging about sales increases or suggesting that they didn't suck as bad as they could have. While it's easy to play fast and loose with sales numbers– estimated vs. actual, the effects of reduced fleet sales, etc.– inventory levels are a reliable indication of showroom reality. When you examine the number of cars a manufacturer's franchised dealers have littering their lots, you begin to know what's what. Let's take a gander at October's numbers.

[NOTE: a 60-day supply is generally considered ideal. Anything above 90-days indicates serious bloat.]

And the crown for lot queen goes to… the Hummer H1, with a 381-day supply. OK, that doesn't really count, but I couldn't resist calling a Hummer a queen. So pass the crown to the Chrysler Crossfire. Even though Bob Nardelli's mob finally whacked the Mercedes SLK-based two-seater, there are still 1100 units waiting for new homes. At the current rate, Chrysler dealers have a 248-day supply. If that isn't bad enough, there's actually a 2008 model on its way.

The once super-nova Solstice is suffering a full lunar eclipse. Pontiac dealers are looking (and looking) at the second slowest selling car in America, with a 211-day supply on hand. Predictably enough, once the initial excitement for GM's niche model was satiated, sales plummeted. Unfortunately, pre-new UAW contract production didn't. Solstii are piling up on dealer lots, hoping that spring drop top sales increases are eternal. Pontiac's dealers could use the biz; they averaged nine sales per dealer during October.

Honda's next up (or down) with a 192-day supply of their unibody pickup truck, the Avalanche-a-like Ridgeline. Honda dealers are also sitting on a 169-day supply of S2000s, a 123-day supply of Pilots and a 103-day supply of Elements. Fortunately for their dealers, the new Accord's a well-stocked hit (45-day supply), the Fit is no longer hard to find (48-days) and the rest of the lineup sits below the 60-day inventory level (including the Odyssey). Overall, the brand ended the month with a 59-day supply of vehicles.

Jeep dealers wish they were so lucky. They're stuck with a 169-day supply of the [why haven't they killed it yet] Commander. Vindication for TTAC Ten Worst voters: there's a 150-day supply of the Compass, up from the previous month's 121-day supply. There's also a glut of Patriots (142-day supply) and Grand Cherokees (111-day supply). Jeep had 11 sales per dealer in October, the bulk of which were Wranglers (62-day supply) and Liberties (74-day supply).

As you've no doubt heard, pickup trucks sales are slowing. You can see the stockpiles piling-up down at the dealers. GMC dealers are sitting on a 127-day supply of Canyons, with enough Sierras to last 116 days. GM's last next big thing, the Chevy Silverado, is hanging-out with the Colorado for 117 days.

Dodges aren't flying off the lots either. The Ram languishes for 117 days, joined by a 110-day supply of Nitros, a 104-day supply of Dakotas and a 100-day supply of Durangos. The Dodge Boys' cars are doing a bit better, but there's still a 93-day supply of Calibers out there, somewhere.

Mercury dealers are struggling to unload the Sable (122-day supply), while customers are lined-up none deep for the old/new/I'm confused Taurus (110-day supply). Like the Solstice, the Mustang's shelf life has ascended (to 104 days). It's not lonely; Rangers clock-in at a 102-day supply.

GM needs to rethink rethinking American. Saturn dealers are holding 109 days' worth of the North American Car of the Year 2007: the Aura. And despite all the praise heaped on the Outlook, Saturn's got a 118-day supply of the Acadia's twin. On the plus side, if sales continue at the same pace, they'll be out of terminated IONs in 15 days.

Nissan dealers have a few slugs on their hands. The Titan and 350Z ooze out of the lots after 107-days. And while you might think gas prices have emptied Nissan lots of frugal Versas, not so. There's a 100-day supply, earning the Versa the dubious honor of America's slowest selling economy car.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, GM has a few fast movers. They only have enough Cadillac CTSs to last 24 days, and enough Enclaves to last 27 days. Chevy's done a good job of clearing out the old Malibu. Dealers welcome the arrival of the new version with a 39-day stock of the old model.

Sadly for armchair analysts, ToMoCo doesn't break down their inventories by model. Dealers have a 26-day supply of Lexus trucks, a 27-day supply of Lexus cars, a 44-day supply of Scion and Toyota cars, and a 53-day supply of Toyota trucks. With an industry-leading average of 141 Scions and Toyotas and 115 Lexii sold per dealer, ToMoCo is still the one to beat.

Draw what lessons you will from this report. One thing's for sure: too little inventory (Malibu, Enclave) and it's an opportunity missed. Too much and profits evaporate. As you might imagine, an automaker that can balance production against demand has an enormous competitive advantage. Game on!

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  • ApexAlex ApexAlex on Nov 15, 2007
    Steven Lang: BTW, I think the Corolla in particular has done an awful lot to make economical cars more appealing to the mass of car buyers. Most folks don’t think of compacts as little tinny cars anymore. The Corolla, and other well designed compact vehicles such as the Elantra and Civic, come with a level of safety and features that were equivalent to most midsized vehicles of five years ago. That’s an amazing achievement given how decontented all these vehicles were back in 2002. Good analysis Steven, and imo, you are completely correct! in 2002, i considered trading my '00 focus for a new corolla. finally decided against it, due to the design being decent but meh! and the dealer not willing to deal very much. i basically just dismissed corollas then. in 2005, it just happened that my bank was auctioning a 2003 corolla LE, and i picked it up after getting a great price. it quickly GREW ON ME. it looked A WHOLE WORLD BETTER than the '02. altho' i knew the "wood trim" was fake plastic, it DID look good. and IT DOES impress passengers who don't know it's fake. along with the dash lighting and other features, the car actually looks like a mini-Lexus! (not true of '04 and later models, with re-positioned logo and cheaper looking grill). unlike ALL other compacts that focus on boyracerish style, this corolla looks far more mature and UPSCALE. the classy C-pillar directly links it to larger Camries and even (yes)Lexuses. (this holds true even with the later models) and yes, i did get 40 mpg, in MIXED driving. (which does drop to low/mid-30s on trips when i can't keep it below 75-80 mph.) the ONLY thing the focus had this car didn't, was superior handling on the twisties. but a mere tire and wheel upgrade not only fixed that, but put my corolla AHEAD now! (granted, the stock focus would've benefited too with a like upgrade.)(and the fat tires have cost me a few mpg.) people who diss the corolla simply DON'T UNDERSTAND. they assume everybody wants a small car to be a boyracer. and/or LOOK like an econobox. the corolla is the super econobox that LOOKS LIKE a mini luxury car. an unbeatable combination that explains its sales success, DESPITE being 'long in the tooth.'
  • ApexAlex ApexAlex on Nov 15, 2007
    jthorner: ...the car is for getting to where things are going to happen, the journey is just something to put up with. WRONG! as i said, this corolla actually HANDLES BETTER than the ford focus now! the fact that in slate gray, my corolla truly does look like a mini-Lexus from the front and in profile makes me PROUD to drive it too. i DO ENJOY driving it, ALL THE TIME. after deciding against the '02 model, i briefly considered the mazda3. with a platform that superceded the german designed focus', it supposedly handled even better. but the looks of the mazda3 did not really turn me on. and mazdas do not have the bulletproof reliability of toyotas.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )
  • Thehyundaigarage Yes, Canadian market vehicles have had immobilizers mandated by transport Canada since around 2001.In the US market, some key start Toyotas and Nissans still don’t have immobilizers. The US doesn’t mandate immobilizers or daytime running lights, but they mandate TPMS, yet canada mandates both, but couldn’t care less about TPMS. You’d think we’d have universal standards in North America.
  • Alan I think this vehicle is aimed more at the dedicated offroad traveller. It costs around the same a 300 Series, so its quite an investment. It would be a waste to own as a daily driver, unless you want to be seen in a 'wank' vehicle like many Wrangler and Can Hardly Davidson types.The diesel would be the choice for off roading as its quite torquey down low and would return far superior mileage than a petrol vehicle.I would think this is more reliable than the Land Rovers, BMW make good engines. https://www.drive.com.au/reviews/2023-ineos-grenadier-review/
  • Lorenzo I'll go with Stellantis. Last into the folly, first to bail out. Their European business won't fly with the German market being squeezed on electricity. Anybody can see the loss of Russian natural gas and closing their nuclear plants means high cost electricity. They're now buying electrons from French nuclear plants, as are the British after shutting down their coal industry. As for the American market, the American grid isn't in great shape either, but the US has shale oil and natural gas. Stellantis has profits from ICE Ram trucks and Jeeps, and they won't give that up.
  • Inside Looking Out Chinese will take over EV market and Tesla will become the richest and largest car company in the world. Forget about Japanese.