NEW YORK -- General Motors has nearly 100 days' worth of inventory right now but plans to get that down to about 70 by the end of the year, in part by taking some of its plants offline for 10 weeks in the summer and fall.
GM says it purposely built up its inventories -- currently at their highest level in nine years -- in anticipation of the downtime, which is needed to retool for upcoming models, including updated pickups. The plans, revealed last week by GM North America President Alan Batey, are a sign that redesigns of the all-important Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra will arrive in 2018.
"Our inventory is high because we're going to take 10 weeks out in the back end of the year as we're modifying our plants, particularly with pickup trucks," Batey told reporters after GM unveiled the second generation of its Buick Enclave crossover in New York.
GM had a 97-day supply of vehicles as of April 1, according to the Automotive News Data Center, up from 91 days a month earlier and 71 days on Jan. 1. But considering the coming downtime, "we are absolutely where I want us to be," Batey said.
He said GM expects to finish 2017 with about the same level of inventory as it started the year with and that GM could cut production further if the market falls short of expectations, though no specific plant actions are planned.
"If we need to balance supply and demand, we'll do it," he said.
GM eliminated production shifts at two car plants in Michigan and one in Ohio during the first quarter. That helped reduce car inventories to a 101-day supply as of April 1 from 123 days on March 1.
But supplies of light trucks jumped to 96 days' worth from 81 last month. GM had a 115-day supply of the Silverado on April 1.
Batey declined to say when GM planned to introduce a redesigned Silverado and Sierra. Analysts and dealers have told Automotive News that they expect GM to begin selling its next-generation full-size pickups in the second half of 2018. The current generation of the Silverado and Sierra went on sale in 2013, and GM freshened them in 2015.
He said pickups account for "a big piece" of the plant retooling planned for later this year but that other models are involved as well.
"I'm not going into details," Batey said, "but we have some exciting things coming out."
GM officials also have cited the introduction of four redesigned crossovers as a major reason for the company's inventory spike. Chevy dealers began selling the second-generation Equinox in March, and GM is preparing to launch new versions of the Chevy Traverse, GMC Terrain and Buick Enclave by the fall.
In terms of volume, GM's inventories have climbed 36 percent since Aug. 1, reaching 925,000 units on April 1. Executives have said they expect inventories to begin declining in the second quarter.