American automobile sales were crippled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They began to recover toward the winter, and some car brands now have sales back to where they were a year ago. Demand for cars by brand and model varies widely. Manufacturers and dealers constantly work to balance inventory.
One of the primary measures of inventory is the average days to sell an individual car once it reaches the dealer. Usually, this is 40 to 50 days. This means dealers have enough cars in inventory to meet customer demand, but not so may as to strain their physical facilities and raise their expenses.
The auto industry is headed toward a major inventory problem. Chips used to make many vehicles are in short supply. The problem is so acute some car companies expect their earnings to be undermined. Car & Driver recently reported:
The first signs of a semiconductor shortage appeared late last year, and now, a month and a half into 2021, the scope of the impacts is coming into view. Plants across North America are seeing production schedules adjusted to properly allocate the limited number of microchips—which are made up of semiconductors—reaching automotive assembly plants.
However, this is an unusual cause for inventory problems. Much more often, a car catches the public’s attention and sales spike higher than the manufacturer expected. Alternatively, special discounts on an individual car can pull people to dealers. Then dealers are left with unhappy potential customers. Manufacturers are left to decide if they should change factory production.
iSeeCars keeps monthly data on “days to sell” by vehicle as a means to determine the balance of supply and demand. The average number of days to sell across the industry in January was 46, within the normal range. One American super sports car brand only had enough inventory so that its days to sell dropped to 10.
The Chevy Corvette has been the Chevy flagship since 1953. It has been called the only American supercar, capable of extremely high speeds and racecar handling. The car is among the few American-made cars available that have only two seats. Additionally, the Corvette has almost no luggage space.
The current model of the Corvette is the Stingray, a brand name that has been used off and on for decades. The Corvette has a base price of $58,900. Several versions are available. These include a convertible, a larger engine and other accessories that can get the price to about $90,000. iSeeCars puts the average price of a Corvette in inventory in January at $84,689.
iSeeCars Executive Analyst Karl Brauer commented on why the days to sell for the Corvette are low:
Production for the 2021 Corvette began in late December with the first orders reserved for those who didn’t receive their 2020 models, and dealer allocations can’t keep up with demand, resulting in long waiting lists for the vehicle.
To determine its figures, iSeeCars looked at 1.2 million new and used cars in inventory in January.
The Corvette situation is unique for another reason. Most of the vehicles with low days to sell are sport utility vehicles. This is likely because the demand for SUVs and crossovers has risen in recent years, while the demand for sedans and coupes has fallen.
Quarterly sales figures came from goodcarbadcar.net. In a few cases, the listed sales figures are for a larger segment of the model’s sales. For example, listed sales for the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid are for the entire RAV4 series.