Car Inventories Balloon to Highest Level Since 2009

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Car inventories, measured by the average amount of time a car sits on a dealer lot before it is sold, reached 70 days for the first 19 days of March. This was the highest level since July 2009, which was in the middle of the Great Recession. The July 2009 figure was 80 days, according to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

The inventory data coincide with two other car industry trends. The first is that the average price of a car sold in the first 19 days of March reached $31,074, an all-time high for the month. This topped the previous record of $31,049 set in March 2016.

The second trend was that incentives through March 12 hit an all-time high of $3,768, topping the previous record of $3,609 set in March 2009. The researchers added:

Incentives as a percentage of MSRP are 10.4%, exceeding the 10% level in March for the first time since 2009. Then, it reached 11.3% as the industry was navigating the financial collapse of 2008/2009.

MSRP is the price suggested by the manufacturer for cars sold at retail.

Pickup sales continue to dominate the market, as sedan sales have fallen sharply. Truck sales make up 61.5% of vehicles sold so far in March. This was the highest level ever for the month. It was also the ninth consecutive month that truck sales were 60% or more of the market.