U.S. automakers and dealers started September with a record number of unsold vehicles — and this time, it's not all because of General Motors.
Volkswagen brand, back selling repaired 2015 diesels as new vehicles, has a 149-day supply based on how long stocks would last at the previous month's selling rate
The headline numbers look grim. On Sept. 1, the industry had a 70-day supply. In units, U.S. inventory was 3,862,200.
Both are the highest on record for this time of year, when automakers typically clear out old models before a new model year. Over 25 years of comparable data, Sept. 1 supplies average 56 days.
But for perspective, the unusual circumstances at VW brand and GM must be considered.
After federal and California authorities approved fixes for 67,000 of the 475,000 2015 VW diesels that had been banned for emissions cheating, VW resumed diesel sales in April. Its inventory jumped. On Sept. 1, VW had 176,900 unsold vehicles, double the 86,500 of a year earlier.
After deliberately overstocking before planned major retooling shutdowns this fall, GM has struggled to work off the surplus. But after strong August fleet sales and modest retail growth, GM's Sept. 1 supply dropped to 87 days from 104 on Aug. 1. GM shed 46,900 units during August. Still, GM inventory is 163,700 units higher than a year ago.
Combined, GM and VW brand inventory grew by 254,100 units from Sept. 1, 2016. Without them, the rest of the industry cut Sept. 1 inventory by 33,800 over the same period.