The U.S. auto industry started the new year with the leanest stock on record, a mere 52-day supply.
Automakers trimmed inventory by 40,600 units to 2.4 million in December. Measured by how long current stock would last at December's sales pace, it's the smallest Jan. 1 supply in 20 years of comparable data.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and American Honda Motor Co. showed some progress in restocking their U.S. dealers after the March earthquake in Japan slammed global production. The Japanese automakers posted smaller inventory declines last month than the industry's overall nine-day reduction.
Honda added 7,200 vehicles during the month, and its supplies dropped three days to 38 days.
Toyota had 500 fewer units on Jan. 1 than a month earlier, with supplies falling 7 days to a 36-day supply. Toyota Motor Sales President Jim Lentz said that Toyota is close to normal levels of units on hand, but it will take until March 31 to end shortages of the Toyota Corolla, RAV4 and Highlander and the Lexus RX 350 crossover and ES 350 sedan.
"We are losing some business there," he said. "We're about 75,000 Toyota vehicles short of ideal."
The Detroit 3 shed a combined 65,600 units last month. Each reduced their days supply from the 70s and 80s back into the 60s, the industry comfort zone.
Nissan North America added 3,100 units of inventory, but after solid December sales its days supply shrank to 57 from 61.
Hyundai-Kia Automotive kept its stock at a 30-day supply.