Call it a miracle, but despite the industry's biggest sales collapse since 1980, automakers have prevented inventories from spiraling out of control.
The sales plunge and a huge swing in the model mix could have sent stockpiles soaring. Yet none of the six big manufacturers has excessive supplies of any high-volume model.
Auto dealers are cutting their own inventories as floorplan financing rates rise and lenders pressure them to reduce stock.
"They're being very careful in ordering in the new model year," said Mike Robinet, head of forecasting for CSM Worldwide.
The industry's combined stock of 2.9 million unsold vehicles on Oct. 1 was almost 300,000 units below the 10-year average for that date. The total generally includes vehicles at dealerships, factory lots, ports of entry and in transit.
The industry as a whole had a 72-day supply of vehicles as of Oct. 1, up from 61 days on Sept. 1 and 59 days on Oct. 1, 2007. But the number is inflated now because of September's disastrous selling rate.
As sales have deteriorated with each month, production cuts have kept pace. No action is too extreme. Automakers have closed factories, idled plants for months, eliminated shifts, moved production to different plants and cut imports. And dealers are showing discipline.
"We are reducing all of our inventories, with the exception of Honda, to targeted levels," said Joe Jankowski, CEO of Schaefer and Strohminger, a group of dealerships in Baltimore that sells brands including Honda, Dodge, Mazda, Jeep, GMC, Hyundai and Pontiac. "We're factoring in a combination of days supply and specific floorplan expense levels."