Editor's note: An earlier version contained an incorrect inventory figure for September 2016. FCA reported 35 Avengers in field stock that month.
Forget Cap and Thor and Iron Man et al.; a real-life Avengers mystery is unfolding in Fiat Chrysler's monthly sales reports.
It has to do with some disappearing and reappearing Dodge sedans.
FCA stopped making the Dodge Avenger sedan very early in 2014 to clear the decks for what was then its redesigned 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan.
At the time, the automaker tasked its dealers with selling off what inventory remained of the old, unloved fleet queen. Avenger inventory began to drop, precipitously. According to FCA, in early February 2014, it had more than 42,000 unsold Avengers in U.S. inventory; a year later, there were just more than 1,000 left.
Drip, drip, drip, the Avengers dropped away, and in December 2015, FCA reported as sold the last 75 Avengers it had said were left in its field stock the month before.
For the first half of 2016, all was well: FCA reported ZERO Avengers left in stock. The midsize Dodge had become an ex-Avenger; it was no more. Then midyear, FCA restated six years' worth of monthly sales reports and launched a new sales reporting methodology to more clearly and concisely state each month what it had sold. And what showed up in FCA's inventory in August 2016? Three Avengers.
OK, you say, it was just three. It could have been a rounding error in the restatement. No worries.
A month later, in September 2016, FCA reported it had sold two remaining Avengers, and said it had 35 left in inventory. Not one, as one might expect, but 35. The next month, FCA said it sold no new 2014 Avengers, but it had 12 left in inventory.
A dozen Avengers? That's nearly enough for a movie!
One more was sold last November, dropping the new hard-to-calculate inventory to 11. That's where the field stock stayed -- kinda -- through June of this year. (FCA didn't report anything for Avenger in March and April 2017, but it reappeared on the report in May, even though it had no sales to report.)
And then in July of this year, the mystery of the disappearing/reappearing 2014 Avengers deepened again: FCA reported that it had sold 10 new Avengers on its sales report for that month. What made this feat even more special was that the field stock level didn't drop from 11 to one, as you might expect when subtracting 10 from 11. Instead, the inventory level stayed at 11. That was a good thing, because just last month FCA reported that it sold one more new 2014 Dodge Avenger, dropping its remaining inventory to just 10.
So how to explain this? Well, a spokesman for FCA declined to comment. But a source with direct knowledge said the mysterious reappearances were the result of "unwound deals" that had taken place over the period of the sales restatement. For what it's worth, "unwound deals" -- in which a vehicle was reported sold in one month and then the deal unwound a few days later -- were one of the big reasons FCA cited as the reason to change its reporting methodology in 2016. After the deals were unwound, the vehicles were put back in field stock, where they were available for sale.
And as for the 10 Avenger sales reported in July? Those were internal vehicles that were never part of the field stock to begin with, the source said.
So somewhere out there, amid FCA's vast network of U.S. dealers, sit 10 still-technically-new-but-rapidly-aging 2014 Dodge Avengers, still waiting for an owner.
If you ever wanted a measure of how unloved the Daimler-era Avenger was, there it is.