New car supply improved in September, defying concerns that the ongoing United Auto Workers strike would constrain inventory before the fourth quarter.
According to Cox Automotive, total new car supply rose to 2.21 million units by the start of October, the highest point since early 2021 and a year-over-year increase of 60%. Compared to the previous month, inventory increased by 7.3%. Days of supply held steady from August but improved on a year-over-year basis. At the beginning of this month, automakers carried enough new vehicles for an average of 60 days, 30.4% more than in October 2022. Traditionally, 60 days has been considered a “healthy” number for new vehicle inventory levels.
While new car supply improved on average, the production rate continued to vary heavily between automakers. Stellantis reported a supply of 111 days by the start of October, making it the most prepared for the upcoming quarter. Earlier this week, the automaker reported a sales decline of 1% compared to the previous year. Ford achieved a 90-day supply for the period, with sales increasing 7.7% in the third quarter. Of the Detroit-Three, General Motors came in last regarding inventory, although it achieved higher Q3 sales than its two rivals. By the beginning of the month, the automaker held 60 days’ worth of new vehicles. Cox Automotive notes that GM’s position is especially weakened due to shortages of in-demand, high-profit products in the Chevrolet and Cadillac lineups.
The steady improvement of new car supply indicates that manufacturing has recovered substantially from the COVID pandemic and may even be ahead of schedule. However, although the United Auto Workers strike failed to dent inventory levels by the start of October, automakers have little time left before employee walkouts take their toll. The sooner Detroit-Three and UAW leaders agree on contracts, the greater vehicle supply will be heading into November and the holiday season.