For the first time in the company's history, Carvana bought more cars from its customers than it sold to them.
It wasn't enough.
The online used-vehicle retailer reported strong top-line growth in the third quarter, but its performance was constrained — like many of its auto retail peers — by a lack of inventory.
"I think there's little doubt that it impacted things in a pretty material way," CEO Ernie Garcia said during a call with investors last week.
To help build inventory quickly, the company will not run its usual Cyber Monday promotion — which in the past has included a $1,000 discount on vehicle purchases — this year for the first time.
The company ended the third quarter with about half the number of vehicles available for purchase as it had before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the spring.
Carvana bought some 73,400 vehicles from customers in the third quarter, an increase of 128 percent from the same period last year. It bought 114 percent as many cars and trucks as it sold, up from 69 percent a year earlier. And about 51 percent of the retail vehicles it sold were sourced from customers, up from 31 percent in the third quarter of 2019.
Carvana said in a letter to investors that it ended the quarter with 26,897 "website units" and 11,900 vehicles available for immediate sale. The difference between those two figures is that the company typically lists vehicles on its website before reconditioning is complete, or before the vehicles are available for immediate purchase.