U.S. consumers want vehicles built on light truck bodies — pickups, sport utility vehicles and crossovers. U.S. carmakers have failed to switch production from passenger cars to light trucks fast enough to keep up with the changing demand, and now they are paying the price with bloated inventories of cars nobody wants to buy.
General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) has had inventory problems since the middle of the fourth quarter of last year. The company’s November inventory checked in with 87 days of supply, which dropped to 84 days in December, jumped back to 87 in January, before popping to 108 days of supply at the end of February. Automakers typically want to see inventory levels of 60 to 70 days.
According to a report Monday morning from Automotive News, GM’s passenger car inventory started the month of March with a 123-day supply of passenger cars and an 81-day supply of light trucks. The Buick division posted a passenger-car inventory of 239 days, about three times the 79 days of supply at the beginning of March 2016.
GM’s to inventory at the end of February totaled 900,681 cars and light trucks, up from 878,590 at the end of January. Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) had March 1 inventory of 678,300, down 77,200 units compared with its inventory level at the end of January. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) showed 578,800 units in inventory at the end of February, a drop of nearly 100,000 from the end of January.
Auto industry inventories at the end of February totaled 4.1 million units, up nearly 300,000 year over year and the highest for any month since July 2004, according to Automotive News. Passenger-car inventory totaled 79 days of supply, 12 days above the long-term average and the second-highest total in 25 years. Light-truck inventory began the month of March with 71 days of supply, three days below the long-term average.
For the year to date, GM stock has added about 5.7%, slightly below the S&P 500 average of 6%. Ford shares are up about 3.4%, while Fiat Chrysler has posted a gain of nearly 20%.