By on July 10, 2020


Fall holiday discounts aside, the height of summer is typically a good time to head out and buy a car. The weather’s good, new models are rolling into dealers, and markdowns are appearing on older stock taking up precious space. Yet 2020 is anything but a normal year.

As the industry struggles to regain the volume it once enjoyed, threadbare inventories continue to plague automakers, though not everyone’s equal in this exercise.

According to Cox Automotive, the end of June saw the national average sitting at 70 days’ supply, down 15 from a year earlier. The industry-wide average hides the fact that mainstream vehicles, led by hot-selling pickups, sat at 68 days’ supply going into July, with premium vehicles easier to come by (79 days’ supply).

Nationwide, sales of full-size pickups only ever dipped by 25 percent during the depth of the lockdown in late March and early April. Production of these crucial vehicles resumed in mid-May, but didn’t immediately ramp up, leaving some dealers unable to satisfy consumer demand.

Compact and midsize SUVs, sales of which bounced back faster than, say, compact cars and various premium segments, also sit below the national average in terms of available stock. Depending on what type of vehicles serve as an automaker’s bread and butter, July could bring plenty of turned-away customers.

mazda cx-5

Rounding out the bottom of the list, Toyota boasted the thinnest inventory (30 days’ worth, on average), less than even Subaru — an automaker known for selling just as many vehicles as it can manage to build. Toyota’s premium division, Lexus, ranked third at 44 days’ worth.

Other automakers boasting tighter-than-average inventories include Mazda, BMW, GMC, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, and Jeep.

“We believe the tighter inventory, particularly with popular brands such as Honda, Subaru, Kia and Toyota, will further dampen July sales,” said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox.

Looking to visit a dealer guaranteed to have what you want? Head to your local Fiat retailer, as the brand that can’t seem to sell a car unsurprisingly still has plenty of items in stock. One-hundred-and-forty-nine days’ worth, to be exact. The only automaker with more inventory bloat than Fiat was Mitsubishi (156 days).

Also near the top in terms of oversupply are Buick, Jaguar, Genesis, Cadillac, and Chrysler, with the likes of Ford, Ram, Lincoln, Dodge, and Nissan sitting around last year’s average in terms of supply.

According to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, June new vehicle sales came in 25 percent below pre-virus forecast for that month — an increase in volume, albeit not a huge one, from May.

[Image: Toyota]

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4 Comments on “Tight Inventory Stands to Hamper July Sales, At Least for Some...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Days of inventory” is the quotient of inventory count and demand.

    If demand falls off due to the end of government COVID money, end of tax returns, further unemployment, and a rebound of COVID cases (and subsequent shutdowns), inventory may turn out to be more than sufficient to meet demand.

    For example, United Airlines recently announced they plan to whack 36k employees in *October*. That doesn’t speak well for the economy for rest of the year.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree “Days of inventory” does not account for the current falling demand. I doubt things will be as rosy as many experts predict with the rebound of the virus and potentially another resurgence later in the year.

  • avatar

    Cruised through dealership row today and noticed that both BMW and Mercedes are parking cars diagonal across multiple spaces. Lowest inventory I’ve ever seen at either. Hardly any cars at BMW, just a couple 7’s and a bunch of SUVs.

    My dad’s Honda salesman called to check on him as it’s been exactly one year since he bought a CR-V. Told my dad they were down to 2 sales people and only had 20 new vehicles on the lot, all models.

    Mazda seemed to have decent inventory, as did the Chrysler/Ram/Jeep store.

  • avatar

    I’ve a local Chryco-Jeep dealer nearby, and I’ve always used it as a barometer. They were stocked up the hills, every space, as tight as they could be…in March. Today, almost empty, down to the last grey and black dull SUV. There’s a lot of empty space, which is a first.

    The real economic problems come in Sept-Nov. Stimulus is gone-will run out. Tax revenues have bottomed out, there will be layoffs from government. Various moratorim on eviction and collection cases will have expired. The car business will constrict like everything else….probably a good time to buy a sunny day sports car, if you can.

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