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Inventory Dips, but That’s Where the Good News Ends

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2017 Subaru Impreza Indiana Assembly Plant - Image: Subaru

The cooling off of the U.S. auto market wasn’t immediately and universally addressed via a production slowdown, but as year-over-year sales losses piled up, automakers began to get in line. Downtime rose, shifts were cut, and the country’s bloated new car inventory began to thin.

August brought the trimmest number of unsold vehicles seen in the past year, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be flying off lots.

Quite the opposite, in fact. According to figures from the Automotive News Data Center, while new vehicle inventory is indeed at a yearly low (just 3,798,400 vehicles), the amount of time it takes to sell an average vehicle is on the rise.

A decrease in sales means the country’s unsold vehicle inventory now turns over, on average, every 71 days. This draws from the 73 days’ supply of light truck models (2,859,600 units) and a 64-day supply of passenger cars (938,800 units). Not since the U.S. was pulling out of the recession — November 2011, to be exact — did the country’s inventory amount to less than a million passenger cars. Expect that figure to sink further as automakers continue pushing small cars into the grave.

The most recent example of companies tailoring production to match reduced demand came at the beginning of August, when Honda cut a shift at its Marysville, Ohio assembly plant, stemming the flow of Honda Accords and Civics.

While the industry posted an estimated sales gain of 1.2 percent in July, the first increase this year, the seasonally adjusted, annualized pace of sales fell to 16.82 million. Last year’s 17.27 million U.S. auto sales represented a high water mark for the industry, one which likely won’t be repeated for some time.

[Image: Subaru]

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