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Inventories drop slightly in May

Assisted by strong April sales, automakers trimmed U.S. stocks of unsold light vehicles for a second consecutive month.

Manufacturers and dealers started May with 3,705,400 vehicles on hand, down about 23,000 units from April 1. It’s also about 56,000 units fewer than on March 1, this year’s inventory peak, which followed fierce winter storms that stalled January and February auto sales.

Inventories now have topped

3.7 million for three straight months after not reaching that level since July 1, 2006, reflecting how automakers have stocked up as sales volumes continue to rise from 2009 lows. April’s selling rate was lower than March’s.

Expressed as how long stocks would last at the previous month’s sales pace, automakers had a 69-day supply on May 1, up from 63 days on April 1.

But that’s only slightly higher than that date’s 22-year average of 67 days.

And it’s close to the industry’s traditional ideal of a 60- to 65-day supply.

General Motors had the highest stocks among major automakers at an 85-day supply, up two days from April 1.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. had the lowest supply of the major automakers at 54 days, up five days from April 1.

Bill Fay, general manager of Toyota Division, said the company still has some minor inventory snags from winter storms disrupting production but expects to fix that soon.

You can reach Jesse Snyder at jsnyder@crain.com -- Follow Jesse on Twitter: https://twitter.com/spartyjesse

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