As automakers sprint toward a new annual U.S. auto sales record, the cupboard isn't bare, but some shelves have thin spots.
New-vehicle stocks declined to a 65-day supply on Dec. 1 from 69 days on Nov. 1. That sounds close to the industry's supposed ideal, but it's below the 74-day supply the industry averaged for this date the previous 10 years.
Automakers prefer to start December with plenty of stock because it has become one of the year's hottest selling months.
It's especially true this year. After posting the best seasonally adjusted annual selling rates in a decade for the last three months, automakers would top the record 17.4 million units sold in 2000 if December volume rises 4.6 percent. U.S. sales are up 5.4 percent the first 11 months.
On a unit basis, Dec. 1 inventory rose 1 percent from a year earlier. It's also 4.5 percent higher than on Nov. 1, but inventory always increases during November.
Most automakers had near-normal stocks at the start of this year's final month, including General Motors, Ford Motor, Toyota Motor Sales, Fiat Chrysler, Nissan North America and American Honda.
But there were two special cases. Capacity-constrained Subaru of America started December with the fewest units on hand this year, enough to last a mere 16 days at its November sales pace. Volkswagen Group of America started the month in a special position related to its emissions scandal. On paper, inventory jumped more than 30,000 units to 185,800. But many of those were 2016 diesel models that can't be sold, and dealers are running out of gasoline models.