Both Toyota and Honda say rebuilt U.S. vehicle stocks helped them increase sales in January and February, but raw inventory numbers show that Honda is far closer to normal than its larger rival.
By March 1, the inventory level at American Honda was about 85 percent of what it was before natural disasters slammed production a year ago. But Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. inventory stood only at about 60 percent of its March 1, 2011, level.
Industrywide, there were 2.6 million unsold light vehicles on March 1, the highest unit count since May 1, 2009. But measured by how long those would last at February's faster sales pace, it's a 57-day supply, the lowest on record for this time of year and down from 66 days on Feb. 1.
Toyota and Honda were the hardest hit by a March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in Japan that created a worldwide parts shortage. Toyota's U.S. inventory plunged from 384,200 units on March 1, 2011, to 169,100 on Sept. 1. Toyota added 67,000 by year end but has not increased the count since then.
Still, Toyota has been able to boost January and February sales, and Toyota brand General Manager Bob Carter said Toyota Division is launching incentives this month.
"We'll roll out our first national sales event of the year," he said. "Thanks to strong residuals and improving inventories, the campaign will feature 0 percent financing and outstanding lease rates."
After the earthquake, American Honda's U.S. inventories fell even farther than Toyota's, from 258,000 to 85,300 on Aug. 1. But on March 1, the company had 219,000 units of inventory.