Automakers have carefully controlled U.S. inventories since the scary days of the recession, but they started April with textbooklike perfection.
Light-vehicle inventory stood at 3.6 million units on April 1, just 4,400 lower than a month earlier.
Solid March sales pushed the days supply — a measure of how long stock would last at the previous month’s selling rate — from 69 down to 59 days.
That’s near the industry’s so-called ideal level of 60 to 65 days as well as the 64-day average for stocks on this date over the previous 23 years.
In fact, automakers have kept monthly industry inventories running within a narrow 4 percent range for the past half year: between 3,558,300 and 3,698,200 units. (The low stood on Jan. 1 and the high on Dec. 1, 2014.)
But beneath the industry’s placid inventory levels, there was volatility among the major players.
Hyundai-Kia sales jumped 9.9 percent in March, fueled by double-digit incentive increases and a 68 percent spike in fleet sales. Its inventory dropped 9.2 percent, falling almost 28,000 units to 275,800 on April 1.
Toyota Motor Sales, which also parlayed richer retail incentives and surging fleet volume into a 4.9 percent March sales gain, trimmed its inventory by 19,000 units.
By contrast, General Motors added 31,200 units to inventory after its March sales slipped 2.4 percent.
Volkswagen Group of America posted the greatest proportional increase in stock. Its inventory climbed 11 percent to 148,800 units after it posted a March sales decline of 6.2 percent.