Automakers and dealerships face a growing glut of cars as U.S. consumers' purchases swing to light trucks faster than automakers can adjust production.
After cars tumbled to 36.5 percent of the February sales mix from 41.3 percent a year earlier, the industry started March with a 79-day supply of sedans and hatchbacks. That's 12 days higher than average for this time of year. Only once in the previous 25 years of records has March 1 stocks been higher: 107 days in 2009.
Meanwhile, hot-selling light trucks started the month with a 71-day supply, three days below the March 1 average.
The car glut pushed total industry stocks to a 74-day supply, moderately higher than the 25-year March 1 average of 70.
The imbalance was especially acute at General Motors, which entered March with a 123-day supply of cars and an 81-day supply of light trucks. Its Buick Division had an overall 167-day supply, the most of any U.S. brand. Buick's car stocks jumped to 239 days vs. 79 days a year earlier.
By comparison, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler US have sharply trimmed production of slow-selling cars in the first quarter. They were the only two of the seven best-selling automakers to reduce total March 1 inventory units from Feb. 1. Compared with a year ago, Ford's March 1 inventory fell 77,200 units to 678,300 and FCA was down almost 100,000 to 578,800 units.
In units, industry inventory stands at 4.1 million, up almost 300,000 from a year ago and the highest for any month since July 2004.