What do the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic, Buick LaCrosse and Volvo 60 series have in common? At least double the normal supplies of those cars were in stock on Dec. 1.
In fact, there were loads of cars of all kinds, by any measure.
In units, 1.8 million is the highest monthly total of cars since March 1, 1996. In terms of how long they would last at the previous month's selling rate, the 80-day supply is the highest since May 1, 2009. A 60-day supply is considered ideal.
The average price of gasoline fell to a 2013 low of $3.13 a gallon in mid-November, which may have discouraged sales of high-mileage cars. But more than just small cars piled up on lots. Cadillac started December with a 121-day supply of cars; Buick, 133 days; Acura, 108 days; and Dodge, 118 days. Volkswagen Group of America had the extreme contrast, with a 109-day supply of cars but only 52 days of trucks.
Some perspective: Across the industry, light-truck stocks are a bit below normal: a 75-day supply compared with a 10-year average of 79 days on Dec. 1.
Overall industry stocks are about normal for December: 77 days compared with an average of 75 days.
And inventory runs higher than average on Dec. 1. Dealers don't want to run short during one of the two best sales months of the year. Automakers book auto sales revenue upon delivery to dealers, so December deliveries pad full-year numbers.
So when analysts asked executives about General Motors' 96-day supply in a conference call last week, U.S. sales boss Kurt McNeil replied that industry sales keep rising and GM inventories were slightly lower than a year earlier. He added: "We actually feel pretty good about where our inventory levels are."