April Snapshot: Sales Tank, Inventory Bloats, Fire Sales Simmer

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
april snapshot sales tank inventory bloats fire sales simmer

Union problems, soaring gas prices and a faltering economy made April the worst month for new vehicle sales since 1995. Continued production in the face of diminished demand helped maintain the manufacturer's cash flow, but it lead to the inevitable: swollen inventories. In other words, even as U.S. new car sales go down the toilet, the toilet's backing up. Fix the number 60 in your mind (the ideal number of days' supply for a new vehicle on a dealer's lot) and take a look at what's going down at your local automotive emporium.

You'd think GM's production "hiatus"– caused by the American Axle strike– would have reduced the General's truck inventory. Nope. The U.S. automaker ended April with a 109-day supply of trucks, up from the previous month's 98-day supply. The Buick Enclave's and GMC Acadia's low dealer stock (38 and 54 days, respectively) couldn't offset lingering Chevrolet Silverados (122-day supply), Tahoes (125 days), GMC Sierras (122 days) and Yukons (188 days). All four trucks were more abundant than they were during the month previous.

Ford's truck inventory wasn't quite as scarifying. A 39-day supply of Rangers and a 54-day supply of Escapes helped lower their truck inventory average to 80 days by month's end. Meanwhile, the F-Series' dealer inventory jumped from March's 97-day end-of-month supply, to April's 129 days. The Expedition's inventory rose from 67 to 98 days. Even though it's one of Ford's best-selling models, the Edge went from a 69-day to a 107-day supply.

With Chrysler's plummeting sales, it's no surprise their inventory's up. The lame duck Dodge Ram's inventory jumped from 99 days to a 109-day supply. Dealer stock of the unloved Dodge Dakota ballooned from 73 to 110 days' supply. After starting with an 81-day supply, Jeep ended up with a 102-day stock of Grand Cherokees. The new Dodge Journey was ChryCo's sole bright spot. The CUV started April with a 130-day supply and ended with 57 days' supply on the lots.

Of the two truck-heavy transplants Toyota fared best. They don't list inventory by model, but they finished the month with a 52-day supply of trucks, up only two days from the end of March. Nissan's numbers represent the nadir. Murano (76 days) and Rogue (82 days) clogged dealers lots the least, while Armada (203 days), Titan (232), Xterra (198) and Frontier (137) were super-abundant.

No question: 2008 is the year of the car. As consumers left ten-foot pole marks on high profit trucks and SUVs, car inventory numbers were their best in months. The Chevrolet Aveo dropped to 65 days (from March's 113) and Cobalt finished the month at the 52-day level (down from 75). GM dealers started April with a 37-day supply of Malibus; they ended it with a 36-day supply. A 21-day supply of Impala turned into a 22-day inventory. The only real dogs were the Pontiac G6– which went from a 43- to 64-day supply–and Saab. GM doesn't break out their Swedish division's individual models, but the ostensibly Swedish brand started the month with a 77-day supply, and ended at 151.

As you might expect, Ford dealers are moving more small cars than big. The Taurus started the month at 60 days' supply and finished at 73 days. Volvo ended the month with an 88-day supply of 70-series, up 11 days. FoMoCo stores' supply of Fusions dropped four days, starting at 52 and ending with 48. Their stock of Focus dropped by 11 days, to 43. The 30-series Volvo ended April at a 94-day level, down from 120 days.

April was a mixed bag for Chrysler. The 300 went from a 61-day supply to 82 days, the Sebring shot from 42 days to 69 ,and Avenger finished at the 51-day level after starting at 35 days. On the other hand, Caliber's inventory dropped from 48 days to 39, Charger went from 58 days to 41 and the reportedly doomed PT Cruiser ended the month at 38 days' supply, after starting at the 50-day level.

Toyota began April with a 51-day supply of cars and finished up with a 53-day supply overall. Nissan began with the ideal 60-day level of Sentras and ended with a 59-day supply. Versa's inventory dropped from 53 days to 51. Altima, however, went the wrong direction, finishing at the 71-day level after starting at 48 days. Honda had a 67-day supply of Accord on the lots on April 1; on April 30 they had a 72-day supply. Civic inventory dropped from 52 days to 48 and Fit went from 27 days to 22.

The manufacturers are taking steps to adjust these inventory numbers- GM has even stopped filling orders from dealers for many of their large trucks. However, with sales down it could take months to get things leveled out. In the meantime, look for increased fleet sales and bigger incentives as The Big 2.8 and Nissan do whatever they can to clear the lots. Also look for Toyota to ramp up incentive spending gradually, balancing the need to move the metal against creating incentive-dependent customers.

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  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on May 23, 2008
    There are diesel engines and then their are diesel engines ..... Thats right. And if you are buying a pickup to do "pickup" things, you know like towing, working, long distance hauling, the Duramax is the diesel. If you haven't been in a truck with this engine, try it first. They are the torque monsters that you would expect, but they are much quieter that you think, they idle well, and they emit zero black smoke. Very fast, too, especially considering what it has to drag around. Calling this engine a lump is inaccurate to say the least. If you can get past the part that it is not made abroad, you will find the Duramax to be a pleasant engine when in docile mode, and you bet, a locomotive under full boil. Just like a real diesel should be.

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on May 23, 2008
    golden2husky: If you can get past the part that it is not made abroad, you will find the Duramax to be a pleasant engine when in docile mode, and you bet, a locomotive under full boil. Just like a real diesel should be. If I had a big truck (I lust after the big crew-cab non-dually trucks) it's the engine I'd want I suppose but in a family sedan it is not the engine I'd want. I sat at a light yesterday next to a Duramax and it was like sitting next to a locomotive at idle. Inside the truck was prob pretty quiet but my windows were open and I was 4 feet from it it's fender. That engine does it's job well. A VW Beetle stopped at a stop sign next to me this morning and it made much less noise. Yeah, much less power but how much power does a small car need. That's enough for a compact. That engine does it's job well too. What I'd want in a Chevy S-10 (the perfect small truck for a diesel) would be somewhere in between those two. I don't need a big Duramax, but maybe have of a bigger VW diesel like a 3.0L six with a turbo or two. GM has all sorts of diesels they could federalize from their overseas divisions. Pick a good one though GM.

  • Probert Wow - so many digital renders - Ford, Stellantis. - whose next!!! They're really bringing it on....
  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.