Do You Have to Let It Linger? Dealers Struggle With Old Stock During a Season of Renewal

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
do you have to let it linger dealers struggle with old stock during a season of

Spring might be a time of renewal, but fall is generally when old gives way to new on dealer lots. Not necessarily, though. If the “new” 2017 Fiat 124 Spider I recently spotted against a backdrop of 2018 Ram 1500s on my local FCA lot is any indicator, some brands have a tough time turning over a new leaf, so to speak. (Fiat’s problem is especially grim compared to other brands.)

Bloated inventories, scattered new model introductions, and a fickle buying public have made “new car season” less apparent than ever, and the problem seems to be growing worse.

According to Bloomberg, data from Edmunds shows a rising trend of old vehicles lingering on lots past their model year, creating a problem for those tasked with selling them.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, just 46 percent of new cars sold in the U.S. were new 2018 models, compared to 73 percent in the same quarter, 2007. Data from the first quarter of 2018 showed roughly 20 percent of new car sales involved a 2017 or 2016 model.

Though many automakers, including GM, have made efforts to lower their bulging inventories (Kelley Blue Book’s last check showed the industry at 66 days’ supply, down 3 days from last August), the industry-wide average remains higher than in the years following the recession, when a rising tide of American buying public stormed anxious dealerships in search of vehicles. New vehicle sales have plateaued, with analysts projecting fewer sales in the years to come. Still, projections are hit and miss. While Edmunds and Cox Automotive predict a better August than last year, we won’t know if that truly was the case until sales figures roll in later today.

Edmunds analyst Ivan Drury feels automakers haven’t yet received the message. “I don’t think they understand the gravity of the situation,” he said. “This is becoming a chronic, real issue.”

Dealers take a hit when left with old stock at model year turnaround time, especially if the newer vehicle is a refreshed model. The old vehicle eats up a spot on a lot that could be occupied by a more desirable vehicle that would sell in less time, and at a higher price. Dispatching old stock traditionally means big, big incentives. And that price tag lures eyes away from the newer, often unchanged models next to it.

Last December, roughly 20 percent of Nissan sales involved a 2018 model. The automaker resorted to throwing incentives at dealer sales staff in a bid to move the old metal. Interestingly, around the same time, Nissan declared an end to the long-held practice of chasing sales targets, later slashing incentives on its vehicles in an effort to boost profitability.

Across the industry, Audi and Subaru keep the trimmest inventories, leading to less model year overlap in late fall. Elsewhere, there’s the potential for big savings as desperate sales staff get ready to play Let’s Make a Deal. This author’s father once made a $4k profit trading in a two-year-old Jeep Patriot on a new, higher-trim model.

You have to wonder what that ’17 Spider ultimately sells for…

[Image: Nissan]

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2 of 65 comments
  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Sep 04, 2018

    Thanks for the earworm! Moo!!!

  • Jalop1991 Jalop1991 on Sep 04, 2018

    The 2018 GTIs didn't get released by VW until late January 2018. The R was even later. So here's a thought: Tesla doesn't have model year cars, do they? Neither do computer companies have model year computers. And of course the Tesla is a rolling computer, updated dynamically...

  • Vulpine Regretfully, rather boring. Nothing truly unique, though the M715 is a real eye-grabber.
  • Parkave231 This counts for the Rare Rides installment on the Fox Cougar and Fox Thunderbird too, right? Don't want to ever have to revisit those......(They should have just called them Monarch/Marquis and Granada/LTD II and everything would have been fine.)
  • DM335 The 1983 Thunderbird and Cougar were introduced later than the rest of the 1983 models. If I recall correctly, the first models arrived in January or February 1983. I'm not sure when they were unveiled, but that would explain why the full-line brochures for Ford and Mercury were missing the Thunderbird and Cougar--at least the first version printed.The 1980 Cougar XR-7 had the same 108.4 inch wheelbase as the 1980 Thunderbird. The Cougar coupe, sedan and wagon had the shorter wheelbase, as did the Ford Granada.
  • Ehaase 1980-1982 Cougar XR-7 shared its wheelbase and body with the Thunderbird. I think the Cougar name was used for the 1977 and 1981 sedans, regular coupe and wagons (1977 and 1982 only) in an effort to replicate Oldsmobile's success using the Cutlass name on all its intermediates, although I wonder why Ford bothered, as the Granada/Cougar were replaced by the Fox LTD/Marquis in 1983.
  • Ken Accomando The Mark VIII was actually designed before the aero Bird, but FMC was nervous about the huge change in design, so it followed the Thunderbird a year. Remember, at this time, the 1983 Thunderbird was the first new aero Ford, with the Tempo soon following. It seems so obvious now but Ford was concerned if their buyers would accept the new aero look! To get the Lincoln buyers warmed up, they also debuted for the 1982 auto show season the Lincoln Concept 90…which really previewed the new Mark VII. Also, the new 1983 Thunderbird and Cougar debuted a little late, in Nov 1982, so perhaps that’s why they were left out of the full line brochures.