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We touched upon the disappointing GM car sales number reported earlier, which were promptly blamed on snow in the winter in some part of the country, which supposedly also meant that California’s ravenous car buyers didn’t purchase vehicles due to drought or something. Either way, one thing is clear: there was a big drop in auto demand which was to be expected from an overextended consumer whose plight we have been following for years. However, where GM did surprise, is that despite its apparent realization of climatic conditions, the company decided to plough through with abnormal production levels and flooded its dealer network with inventory. So much inventory, in fact, that in January, GM’s channel stuffing pipeline rose by another 42K cars (a quarter of total sales in January), increasing the stock of cars parked at dealer lots and collecting dust to 780K from 748K in December, the second highest ever!
Shown otherwise, post-reorg GM had a record 114 days supply in inventory, compared to “only” 81 at the end of the year.
Confused why the various US manufacturing indices have been on a tear in the past few months? Perhaps the fact that GM dealer lots are so full of cars they just couldn’t wait for even more deliveries has something to do with it. Which is also why in addition to reporting sales numbers for November that were largely in line with expectations, amounting to 212,060 (even if total Chevy Volts sold YTD of 20.7K were -0.6% less than in the same period in 2012), or 13.7% more than last year (estimated called for 13.% increase), of which a whopping 51,705 was in the form of “channel stuffed” units to be parked on dealer lots.
In fact, as the chart below shows, in the past three months, GM channel stuffing has exploded and soared by 150K units (the most ever for a 3 month period) from 628.6K to 779.5K. This represents the second highest amount of channel stuffing and is lower only compared to the 788.2K units “stuffed” exactly one year ago.
And while the topic of channel stuffing is not new here, as we have been covering it closely for the past three years, it is of note that even “serious” media such as Bloomberg pointed out yesterday that across the entire US car industry, and not just GM, channel stuffing is now the highest it has been since 2005. Surely all this pent up demand is there for a reason: after all, as in every centrally-planned economy, if you build it they will surely come…