Inventory & Supply of New & Used Vehicles in Dollars & Units: What a Mess

Dollar-denominated inventories plunged amid historic price spikes. But by units, new vehicle inventories collapsed; used vehicle inventories not so bad, but prices are ridiculous.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Inventories at new and used auto and parts dealers, measured in dollars, declined to $145 billion in October, the lowest since the spring 2012, down 23% from October last year, and down by 40% from the months just before the pandemic, according to data released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday.

This drop in dollar inventories came despite the 44% year-over-year spike in wholesale prices in used vehicles, and the widespread shift to higher-end new vehicles by automakers prioritizing their most profitable models, which led to an 18% increase in the Average Transaction Price.

Those historic price distortions inflate dollar-denominated inventories by massive amounts, and they would have caused these inventory numbers to balloon in a historic manner. But the number of actual vehicles in inventory has collapsed – we’ll get to that in a moment – and even this surge in vehicle prices couldn’t cover it up.

And the inventory-sales ratio – dollar-inventories divided by dollar-sales, which cancels out the impact of price increases – dropped again in October to the historic lows of April and May, the lowest in the data going back to 1992:

In the chart above: After the Lehman moment in late 2008, new vehicle sales plunged, and the US was suddenly awash in inventory, and the inventory-sales ratio spiked. The Cash-for-Clunkers program in July 2009 briefly boosted sales and thereby pushed down the inventory sales ratio for one month.

The collapse in sales during March and April 2020 triggered an even bigger spike in the inventory-sales ratio. And the subsequent supply shock and simultaneous stimulus-fired demand shock have had persistent effects.

The number of vehicles in inventory collapsed.

Just to clarify: The above was about inventories of combined new and used vehicles and parts, in dollars. The below is just new vehicles, in units. And further below, we’ll get into used vehicles in units.

The inventory of available unsold new cars and light trucks in November, at 995,568 vehicles (while up 8% from October, hallelujah) has collapsed by 64% from the 2.76 million new vehicles in inventory in November 2020, and by 71% from the 3.5 million vehicles in inventory in November 2019, according to Cox Automotive data.

Days’ supply at the rate of sales in November, at 32 days, has been in the same range of 29 to 33 days since May.

A healthy supply would be about 60 days. In November 2020, supply stood at 70 days. In October 2019, supply stood at 88 days – which was bad news in the other direction, indicating oversupply on cooling demand.

The average number of days it took dealers to sell a new vehicle in November dropped to the lowest on record, according to Cox Automotive, as an increasingly large portion of vehicles are ordered by customers and are spoken for when they finally come off the carrier, and there is effectively very little inventory on dealer lots.

Given the tightness in supply, sales have plunged. In November, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales of new vehicles plunged by 19% year-over-year and by 25% from November 2019, according to data from the BEA, as there was little inventory to sell:

But these shortages are dynamic and change.

Toyota had been a stellar performer earlier this year into summer, avoiding most of the semiconductor shortages via its special deals worked out a decade ago with its semiconductor suppliers. Its sales hummed along while other automakers ran out of inventory. Those deals expired after three to six months. By summer, Toyota’s production got hit by the semiconductor shortages, and large-scale production cuts then filtered through to its dealers and their inventories.

GM and Ford got hit hard and heavy by the semiconductor shortages early this year, but are now getting some supply, and production is recovering, even as Toyota is getting crushed.

Days’ supply of inventory at Toyota dealers has shrunk to 16 days, as dealers are now essentially out of vehicles on their lots, and they’re selling units that had been ordered by customers, or they’re selling units that are in transit before they come off the carrier.

But inventory of Ford and Lincoln vehicles increased to a supply of 39 days. And supply of Chevrolet vehicles increased to 32 days. According to Cox Automotive, supply of full-size pickups, the high-margin profit-makers that all manufacturers have been prioritizing, appears to be improving for US brands:

Used vehicle inventories not so tight, but prices are ridiculous.

Unlike new vehicles, there is no shortage of used vehicles, except at the very low end. But supply is tight. Total used vehicle inventory on dealer lots ticked up by 2.7% in November from October, to 2.31 million vehicles, down 11% from November 2020, according to Cox Automotive today.

Of those 2.31 million vehicles, 1.29 million were on the lots of franchised dealers (such as Ford dealers or Toyota dealers). And 1.01 million vehicles were on the lots of independent dealers, from small operations to CarMax.

Supply at the end of November was 44 days – getting back into the normal-ish range – but this was down by 15% from November 2020, as sales this November increased by 5% year-over-year.

Average listing prices of used vehicles in inventory have ballooned, a testimony to the ridiculous spikes in retail prices of used vehicles that started in the summer 2020 (+31% year-over-year in November):

The average listing price of used vehicles at franchised dealers rose to just under $30,000, with on average 62,000 miles on the odometer. And at independent dealers, the average listing price rose to nearly $25,000 with an average of 78,000 miles on the odometer.

Tightest supply at low end, plenty of supply at higher end.

As everyone is pumping up prices, there is little left on dealer lots below $15,000. But there’s plenty of supply at higher prices. And so far, amazingly, Americans have been willing, or even eager, to pay these ridiculous prices, instead of driving for a year or two what they already have:

  • Under-$15,000: two segments, each with fewer than 10,000 vehicles for sale.
  • $15,000 to $20,000: just under 100,000 vehicles for sale, 40 days’ supply.
  • $20,000 to $25,000: over 600,000 vehicles for sale, 41 days’ supply.
  • $25,000 – $30,000: over 1 million vehicles for sale, 45 days’ supply.
  • Above $30,000: in the various segments, supply ranged from 46 days to 50 days.

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  139 comments for “Inventory & Supply of New & Used Vehicles in Dollars & Units: What a Mess

  1. Cas127 says:

    Excellent data, Wolf.

    It provides a fair amount of insight into how new car manufacturers structure their production operations (most profitable first, then followed by lower margin products presumably intended to maximize revenue/total profit via the equivalent of price discrimination).

    This makes sense of a sort…although it also portends a possible vast shrinkage of overall auto production (the “safety” of large margin sales can become addictive if insiders get comfortable with shrinking their companies…in the face of demand uncertainty who needs the risks/headaches of producing lower margin cars?)

    This is the antithesis of US manufacturers’ attitudes since…well, forever.

    Historically, everyone wanted scale in order to minimize marginal production costs…and then Marketing could worry about the rest.

    But now producers seem to be giving off vibes that they may be okay with being 80% or 60% of their former size…so long as they can still sell to the carriage trade.

    This is kinda scary.

    • Prince Gbanga says:

      This would be a wonderful thing for America.

      “Survival of the Biggest” is insane.

      • Cas127 says:

        Prince,

        You have never lived in a nation that stopped attempting to reduce the marginal production cost/price of goods…it will be a materially poorer one for a majority of the population.

    • perpetual perp says:

      Adam Smith warned that nations that had ‘high profit margins’ were the ones destined to fail. Just saying. Smith published his iconic economics book ‘Wealth of Nations’ in 1776, the year of our revolution.

      • Wisdom Seeker says:

        High Profit Margins sound good until you realize that it means the share of revenues going to labor is too small to be sustainable. It’s a recipe for wealth inequality.

        Some of that is required to support a large elderly retiree population (profit margins -> pension payments).

        But as Henry Ford noted, maximum prosperity for all requires paying workers enough to buy what they make. That’s what leads to maximum profits to support the retirees.

        • RedRaider says:

          Also, high profit margins is just begging for new competitors.

        • Marcus Aurelius says:

          Henry Ford did not come up with the $5/day pay idea.

          One of his “Lieutenants” did.

          They could not keep employees. The mind-numbing assembly line drove a turn over of 3X a year.

          They determined it was better to pay $5, than train new people and endure delays in the assembly line, and that is why they did so, but used it as a PR gimmick for publicity.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          “Marcus”, thanks for the extra detail!

          That helps explain how the shortsighted capitalists lost sight of that Ford practice, once they could get the public schools to churn out mind-numbed workers able to tolerate repetitive assembly line jobs…

        • El Katz says:

          WS:

          The “mind numbing” assembly line jobs are not what you think. There are fewer and fewer manual operations on the assembly lines. Most welding is done by robotics…. painting is done by robotics…. interior assembly done by machine (human helpers – do the heavy lifting and placement with human guidance). Windshields placed by robots….. And all those robots require maintenance and knowledge of operation. Humans, for the most part, do visual inspections of robot performance (paint flaws, paint correction, panel alignment, etc.,).

          Auto manufacturing is done in air conditioned factories, most of which are cleaner than the average residential kitchen.

          The graduates that the public schools are turning out now can’t even make change without a calculator. If you’re feeling particularly sadistic, buy something in a grocery store for an odd amount under $10, offer a 10 then change it to a 5 and some singles and watch the clerk’s eyes glaze over.

    • Augustus Frost says:

      Selling a lower number at much higher prices works great with cheap money and low credit standards. Low traditionally, not the ridiculously low of today and the recent past.

      It won’t work so great otherwise.

    • Marcus Aurelius says:

      If a car company wants to sell a particular product line, it is their “right” under “Free Enterprise”.

      When FORD came along and built “cheap” cars, he was hated.

      When Toyota came along and exported cheap cars to the US, they were hated and mocked.

      Somebody will open a car plant. Make “cheap” cars. I have wondered why this has not been done.

      Lets imagine Wal-Mart bought into, or built, a car manufacturing business. Build a nice 4 door, 4 cyl engine, simple auto transmission, absolutely minimum electronics, etc., etc and kept it all as simple as possible. Then, they come in only 3 colors, Red, White, and Blue.

      One Price. Put a model IN SIDE each Wal-Mart. Price $9,999. No haggle. Set Interest and Ammortization, lets say 5 years at 5%. (Monthly payment would be exactly $200 per month).

      With a simple car designed for efficient repairs, even the Insurance would be less.

      Absolutely no “haggle” on anything. One would buy it as is. The goal would be to sell the car in 30 minutes, or less, and have it delivered the next day at that Wal-Mart Auto Department. Almost everything could be done on-line at Wal-Mart Auto. com.

      You just show up when the car arrives from the storage yard.

      Wal-Mart could have their own “Accessory Store”, for this car.

      I have wondered for decades why Wal-Mart has not done this. I would imagine serious threats from the Auto Dealers network, the domestic Car manufactures and, of course, the Banks would do a Tucker attack on anyone who tried.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Marcus Aurelius,

        Yes, that has sounded logical for many decades. But turns out, Americans don’t like to buy small cheap cars — well, a few do, but that number is too small. It has been tried many times before, and those cars don’t sell. In ca. 1990, we used sell the Ford Festiva for $4,999 new, and no one made money on it, but we could only sell 1 or 2 a month, compared to 150 pickup trucks. They’d rather buy something nice and big that is four years old, than something basic, small, and cheap. Americans are funny about their vehicles.

        • Oj says:

          Once you see how they drive, you understand why. A 2 ton truck will demolish a Corolla.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Marcus/Wolf-if one goes wayback prior to WWII, i believe Sears tried their hand at ‘affordable’ autos/motorcycles. Not successful, ultimately…

          may we all find a better day.

        • Lynn says:

          Most families where I live prefer a small car as a second car- but they want a used one as it’s cheaper. The car serves as the wife and kid’s car and is used for longer distance travel- like 2 to 4 hours. Also, people who work low paying jobs (most of them here) prefer used small car. Unless they live in it, then they want a bigger car.

          However, they don’t usually prefer American or European built as those small cars have a reputation for breaking down and dying an early death in these mountains. A little Toyota or the old Datsuns and Izuzus lasted forever over dirt roads and gunning it through the streams crossing those roads. Not unusual at all for any rural areas in the west.

          Most out here prefer Toyota, Ford 150 or old rangers, and bigger dodge trucks. Certain American trucks have a better rep for lasting than the cars. I think the big Dodge Rams might be just a status symbol though, IDK.

          I really like the look and build of 4×4 Ford explorers and Bronkos but if I had the money I’d be hesitant to buy a new one now that they are roughly the same price as bare bones Toyotas. They just don’t hold up or last as long.

          You would think the US would be able to build smaller cars that were tough. We have a large population living in vast rural areas with poor roads. It’s amazing that a smaller Island country with high expenses would build tougher than us.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Lynn,

          Ford killed its Fiesta model about a year ago, it’s cheapest ($15k) smallest vehicle in the US, nicely equipped too. It killed it because it wasn’t making enough money on it, and because not enough people wanted to buy one. The Japanese automakers also killed their smallest cheapest sedans — e.g. Toyota killed its Yaris. There just isn’t enough demand, and advertising these vehicles is hard because there is so little profit margin for automakers and dealers.

          If Americans have a budget of $15K for a car, they buy something bigger and further up the scale that is 3 years old and that looks nearly new. That’s how the market is in the US.

          But that is not how the market is in Japan, where the most popular vehicle category is the minis with 660cc engines (three of these motors together are the size of one Harley Davidson motor). They cannot even be driven on Expressways. But they’re really cute and cheap and get people around town, and they’re very economical. You see them everywhere… most of them are passenger minivan-style, some are pickups or cargo vans, some are sedan.

        • Lynn says:

          “Most out here prefer Toyota, Ford 150 or old rangers, and bigger dodge trucks.”

          *As their first vehicle if they have more than one. If not- probably 50/50.

        • Lynn says:

          Also, what’s amazing to me is that the smaller Hondas like the accord are tough as nails on these roads while the bigger CRVs- even the older style are certainly not. My older high clearance CRV cries abuse!! every time I take it out in the mountains. And it’s in very good shape for it’s age.

        • NBay says:

          91B20-
          Sears catalog had a 50cc moped and a 250cc twin, (and I think some stuff in-between) in their catalogue from maybe 58 to 63 or so. Had friends in 8th grade with the moped and around 13-14 one with the 250. Sold under Allstate brand and made by Puch or JAWA, I think. Both 2-strokes. The 250 was weird, had some kind of shared combustion chamber, and I saw him fire it up, rev it, dump the clutch and it went backwards! Good thing he was in gravel with no weight on it!

        • NBay says:

          Also was a “Hondista” during 80’s recession. Me and a buddy each had 600cc air-cooled sedans, gutted inside, and parted out 4-5 (c1972?) coupes and sedans. Cheap, easy to fix, and fun as hell. We took them on the freeway, maybe 55 flat out, but around town I bet we could out corner a Porsche.

          These were the ones that were dumped in the ocean off shore Seattle (and probably LA) because they didn’t sell fast enough.
          One sick Econ system, eh?

        • NBay says:

          Also pretty sure a 350cc version was sold in Japan at the time.
          They are NOT a stupid people, like we are, as they proved first with bikes and then with cars….and a lot of other things.
          Although I can remember the days when people first said, “Jap Junk”……it didn’t last long.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          NBay-good, as always, to see your handle. As long as we’re sidebarring, here, my dusty and cobwebbed memory banks also recall that SR brought in some 125cc Garelli singles and the long-departed (if not lamented) Monkey Wards attempted to get in on the ’60’s moto-fad by offering a gaggle of 50-250cc Benellis.

          The Japanese gov’t’s. creation of the MITI was expressly to change the world image of ‘Jap Junk’ and thus increase export sales by ensuring the quality of Japanese products. The fond comments here referring to early Toyotas and Datsun-Nissans, etc. (cameras, electronics) demonstrate the success of that effort.( Always surprised at the number of U.S. manufacturers who patted Deming on the head and said ‘that’s nice, but we’ll pass’ who later had much of their lunch consumed by the Japanese who met him and said ‘that really makes sense!’…).

          Sic transit gloria mundi.

          may we all find a better day.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          NBay-Gilera, not Garelli.

          may we all find a better day.

        • El Katz says:

          NBay:

          The cars that were “dumped” as fish habitats by Honda were cars that had a propensity to rust out (not galvanized). It was more of a future product liability move than anything else.

        • El Katz says:

          Lynn:

          The CRV is built on a Civic pan with different subframes than the Civic. It was built as a “tall wagon” and never intended to be a SUV or robust vehicle. It was just a tall wagon. Those who identify as “Hondista’s” will remember the precursor Civic Wag-o-vans of the 1980’s that were imported as trucks to get around the import restrictions, yet avoided the chicken tax because they weren’t pickups.

        • NBay says:

          Katz,
          A “Hondista” was SPECIFICALLY a driver of the new small Japanese version of the Mini-Cooper. We all said “screw big cars” and just wanted functional CHEAP transport. Also, having cut 4-5 10 year old models up into pieces small enough to be scattered in dumpsters around town, I can assure you there was NO rust problem in our climate.

          And any rust problems could have easily been addressed if people had ACCEPTED small cars, which is my main point in the first place, leading me AGAIN to saying Americans are stupid, don’t know WHAT they REALLY NEED to live a good life, and do stupid economic things at the lowest (from excessive and very powerful advertising, and LACK of “free market” (Har-Har) choices) and at the highest (rich) corporate levels (for short term PROFIT).
          Sir Alex Issagonis was not Knighted for his human situation assessment or engineering stupidity….like Branson was.
          I never saw a Civic “wago-van”, but I do know the very first Civics were great small transport cars, and were even modified and REALLY enjoyed by me, my friends, and even the “Dan Romig” performance set, I bet. NOBODY asked to make them bigger, it was all profit margin driven….or should I say…..(har-har) “free market” driven.
          Sick Econ.

        • NBay says:

          Lynn,
          I have seen ads on this very website for an outfit that will dig you up an OLD Ford Bronco, restore it, and sell you a very good piece of iron for $150K.
          I wouldn’t trust a new one either, just more disposable and buy something else junk. Again, all “free market” driven, har-har.

        • Dan Romig says:

          NBay,

          The first car I ever bought, in 1985 when I got out of college, was a 1976 Civic. Owned three Civics, and a 750F & 900F Honda motorbike. Loved them all.

          The Formula 1 world champion had a Honda Power Unit in his Adrian Newey designed Red Bull.

        • Lynn says:

          Wolf, I was thinking of Corollas and Accords as small cars. Still popular AFAIK. Anything a lot smaller than that would be scary on many US interstates.

        • Lynn says:

          El Katz, yep, my friend calls it a high clearance soccer mom cart. At least it’s a unibody though- has built in “skid plates”. Curiously enough, it has a sort of roll bar cage protecting the gas tank too. Just can’t get uphill in gravel. The 2006 looks like they were seriously considering a rural US market but never followed through.

          Nbay “I have seen ads on this very website for an outfit that will dig you up an OLD Ford Bronco, restore it, and sell you a very good piece of iron for $150K.”

          That’s hilarious. I could maybe see that for a fully rebuilt, customized and heavily modded ford 4×4 van with bulletproof sides and a pop-out, or maybe killdozer 2, but a bronko?

        • NBay says:

          Dan,
          Some where in the 60’s, before they banned just adding cylinders to get volumetric efficiency, Honda built and tested a 50cc FOUR CYLINDER GP bike. It had a power band not too far either side of 20,000 and who knows how many speeds. Had to make their own plugs for it.

          Cycle World said so.

      • Nemo 300 BLK says:

        Along your line of thinking, look at the popularity of the Ford Maverick “pickup” truck already. A friend of mine picked one up for $23,500, and after looking at it, it’s all most of the population needs in family transportation and a “truck.”

      • Wisdom Seeker says:

        Trouble:

        1) No company is going to invest in new ICE vehicle plants when every major government is signaling legal mandates to transition to electric vehicles.

        2) Can’t make electric vehicles without all the stuff that’s in short supply! (But you COULD keep it simple, and build your own supply chain for the critical stuff…)

      • Anthony A. says:

        Sears and Roebuck tried just that in the early 1950’s. They used a cheapened Henry J. It was a flop.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          AA-a nod to you, forgot the HJ. Didn’t work for SR the second time around, either, post WWII new auto shortages notwithstanding…

          The well-discussed trend here of more-or-less ‘universal’ EV platforms emerging could indicate a coming fork in history’s path (one, in the words of the immortal Berra, that will be taken…).

          may we all find a better day.

        • Dan Romig says:

          Right after WW I, Sears & Roebuck were good at selling kit houses though. My Craftsman bungalow is now just over one century old.

          There is a small niche market for kit cars. Caterham has some neat choices for the person who wants to build their own bare-bones performance roadster.

        • NBay says:

          I remember back when the Lotus 7 put almost anyone who wanted to be, actually on the track.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      I don’t think they’re “okay” with selling fewer vehicles.

      They’re just supply-constrained.

      The ones that figure out how to break out of the supply straitjacket first are going to rule the market in 2 years.

      • cas127 says:

        WS,

        Maybe…it is hard to tell.

        I was pretty spooked well before the pandemic, when Ford and GM decided to almost entirely surrender the car mkt to overseas manufacturers (albeit those with tariff motivated US plants…).

        It seems more and more likely that GM/Ford have simply lost their value engineering skills…they are really only capable of making over-priced products that are poorly-to-mediocrely produced. If it weren’t for ZIRP and some Americans’ semi-delusional fixation on SUVs/over-priced trucks…Ford and GM might have already been bankrupt (again…okay, 2009 Ford squeaked by…).

        I agree that supply chain disruptions are playing a big role in current product mix changes but…other scary US manufacturing trends predate the pandemic.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          I freaked out too, until I realized that the compact SUVs are not classed as “cars” but as “trucks”.

          Older people can’t easily get in and out of low-slung traditional “cars”. That becomes a safety and health issue when you consider the life-threatening effects of hip fractures past a certain age. SUVs are much more ergonomic (among other reasons for their popularity) and that’s where the demand has shifted.

          IMHO, Ford and GM weren’t surrendering the auto market, they were just going where it made sense.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          WS-well said. our last two vehicle acquisitions had ease of ingress/egress for my 99-year-old mother-in-law (who lives with us) among the top of purchase criteria…

          may we all find a better day.

        • El Katz says:

          The domestics surrendered the passenger car segments because they couldn’t compete. The costs to engineer a “safe” passenger car that passes government standards, offers mandated equipment (backup cameras, front, side, curtain airbags, etc.,) are staggering – only to be sold for a dealer gross of a few hundred bucks… and at low volume because the imports owned those segments due to the worldwide distribution.

          The higher margin vehicles have always supported the sales of the lower margin vehicles. A base model car is usually a money loser – the middle trim is where the profits begin to rise and positively impact factory profits, and the higher end trims make the product line pencil. If you disrupt the balance of production (which I did quite frequently by where we chose to put our incentive dollars), we’d crush the factory profitability and have the production and product planning people screaming in our ears.

          People have this idea that auto manufacturers are comprised of only one company. They’re not. In the U.S., Toyota has Toyota Motor Sales – which is the distributor… then they have the various factories as separate corporations (Toyota Motors Manufacturing Kentucky, Toyota Motors Manufacturing Alabama, Texas, etc.,) – each with their own profitability targets. Then there’s the royalties paid back to the mother ship for use of the trademarks and technology developed by other divisions (racing, etc.,). Toyota Motor Credit is another U.S. arm. Auto manufacturers are not unidimensional…..

          Make a cheap car…. hahahaha! Do you think no one thought of that? The sad reality is that the government has made sure that is no longer possible in the U.S. Why do you think the original VW Beetle (rear engine, air cooled) went the way of the dodo bird? VW continued to manufacture those for years for sale in other countries…. they just were unsellable here due to government regulations. Crash standards, pollution, etc….. Last U.S. sales in 1977, but continued in production until 2003 in Mexico and sold south of the border.

          The company I worked for tried to build a more austere model of one of their highest volume products (33% of volume) circa 2010ish. That was the same year that Hyundai took the Elantra upscale in both styling and cabin amenities. Our product cycles usually lasted 5 years at that time…. but that mistake was rectified within less than one year at a cost of nearly half a billion $ (and heads rolled in product planning). No one bought them when they could buy the schmancy Elantra for less – even though it was an inferior product. Bling sells. Logic doesn’t.

        • Dan Romig says:

          Thank you El Katz.

          I alluded to that in my comment (and in past comments), but you did well in concisely explaining the hurdles needed to sell cars in the USA.

          Perhaps Auldyn has some insight on production of the Gordon Murray designed TVR Griffith. It’s a dream car for me & I want one! Made in Wales and three years behind schedule for when they were originally slotted to be ready.

          Will they ever be legal to be imported and licensed in the USA? Gordan Murray has designed Formula 1 cars and the McLaren F1 road car. I sure as hell would drive one; NHTSA approval sticker or not.

        • Sams says:

          A comment about American automakers leaving the passenger car market. Did they or was just the cars reclassified as trucks?

          Example a 1994 -1996 Chevrolet Impala did weight in at around 4000 pounds and was a car.

          The 1991 – 1996 Chevrolet Caprice station wagon around 5000 pound and a car.

          Today a Chevrolet Blazer wight in at around 4000 pounds and that one is a truck. Well, it may be classified as a truck, but to me it is very much the modern equivalent of a Impala or Caprice, slightly more compact. Or at least more efficient packaged.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Sedans and compact SUVs ARE different, including that compact SUVs are higher off the pavement and have a higher roof-line than sedans. What has largely gone away are sedans, including compact sedans, however you classify anything in terms of cars or trucks.

        • BobC says:

          Ford’s not all bad, I drive a 2015 Mustang that’s been very reliable and enjoyable!

        • Sams says:

          A late reply to Wolf.
          Well there are sedans, estates, coupes, combi-coupes, cabriolets, soft tops, hard tops, panel vans, vans, pickups, SUV’s and more. What kind of how much sport and utility there is in those SUV’s may be discussed to.😉 An Audi Q5 Sportback may be an SUV, but not much utility parked alongside an old Land Rover Defender form the previous century.

          Anyway, in your numbers of vehicles sold in the USA there are two categories, cars and trucks. With only these two categories I do find it interesting to see to what degree the shift from cars to trucks is a shift from for example an estate to a SUV of similar size. Different vehicles, different classification, but maybe the “same” market segment and buyers.

        • NBay says:

          Dan, Katz,
          You guys are acting like car manufacturers don’t have VERY ACTIVE and EXPENSIVE lobbyists. My uncle was one….for a HUGE aerospace outfit.
          For example, why can’t a 3 wheel motorcycle have an enclosed weather proof body? Is it unsafe to get wet? BTW, I built and licensed, and drove one. Side by side VW seats, doors, windshield, wipers, turn signals, stop lights,16 hp Tecumseh 500cc with Salisbury CVT, corolla rear end, Honda M/C front end, VW steering box to steering wheel with heim joints. All the CHP cared about then was is it safety glass and where to pop rivet the VIN plate. 1981 or 2.
          Only 500 “specially constructed vehicles” (car OR motorcycle or kit cars) allowed in CA per year, chosen by “lotto” supposedly.
          Either you have a fleet and $$$$$s or you go home….all “free market” stuff, ya know…..
          NTSB is as bought off as the FDA…..pay to play….get mad at the corps, you’ll miss the gov’t when it’s gone.

  2. Marco says:

    Hi Wolf, how is the FED being ‘forced’ to tackle Inflation. Surely they could quite easily let it run ahead and they could stay a little behind the curve. Isn’t Inflation what they wanted for the past 12 years so as to eat away at the debt ?

    • andy says:

      How will member banks lend mortgages at 3% for 30 years, when the real inflation is 9% per annum?

      • Jon says:

        Banks are not lending the mortgage money
        It is bought by freddie fennie mae…
        So the taxpayers are on hook.

        The banks make tons of money on servicing the mortgages.

        • Moosy says:

          and whoever is borrowing the money will make a handsome capital gains as well.

          First 500k tax free after 2 1/2 year

          Just don’t buy some overpriced dump in SF. Less upside, more downside

        • andy says:

          Get out! What about Bernie Sanders’ houses. Clearly, the taxpayers did not pay for those!

      • Marcus Aurelius says:

        They don’t have to make any money on the Loan.

        They make money on the closing costs, Title Insurance, etc.

        They then sell the Mortgage to the Government agencies and collect a fee.

        Rinse and Repeat.

        Anyway, they don’t lend money. They create “credit”. No money is involved.

  3. Truth says:

    Right on INFO Mr Wolf :
    Interesting enough on the Used Parts like from Salvage Yards the ” inventory is up ” at least the 6 or so places I go for parts
    everything from Tires to Motor parts Etc : Reason being at least ” in part ” is Hi Gas prices causing less people to come for parts.
    More people are taking advantage of the CA Bar Program wherein you can receive $1,500 for a Retired Car ( it must still move back and forth ) All your data I think is correct > I also think the High cost of Basic things like Gas , Cars and Homes as example are driving people to ask “huge prices” for anything they are selling ” Driving Up Inflation ” by doing such .What I am saying is that Inflation drives itself once started and that’s a Big rather than small Issue .
    Repair shops are backed up in work running some 3 weeks behind Often .
    Along with Inflation driven Labor prices >Gotta Pay for Gas , Mortgages everything yes? >Point being is that a Monster has been awakened and I don’t think the realization has set in but for sure a few 1/4 pt INCREASES of the rates I don’t think are going to do it >can you spell possible recession ? .
    A worker now needs to ask for $50 Per hour rather then $15 or $20 . Thank You Mr Powell and I am sorry if you trip over the homeless on your way to the office

  4. Anthony A. says:

    It’s going to be a wile before the auto companies are back to normal and inventories are where they need to be. Maybe two years? In the meantime, just drive your cars and maintain/repair them as needed.

    • Sams says:

      Do the auto companies really want to be back to “normal” inventories?

      Large inventories of cars at the dealership may be an American thing. In other markets the cars may be built to order or “stored” in transport. Other places the “dealership” is just a showroom with demo cars and offices for the sellers. This model may have some benefits to the car brand owners, like it will not be possible to see the numbers of cars available.

      • El Katz says:

        Sams:

        I’m sure that the auto manufacturers (at least in the U.S.) want the market to return to normal. The inventories on the lots at the U.S. dealers are already sold and the profits booked by the manufacturers. In the U.S., the dealerships are not owned by the manufacturers like they are in other countries. (It’s illegal for them to do so – Tesla is the exception as they are exempt in some states, but not all. I would imagine that, once their volume exceeds that of hen’s teeth, those exemptions will be withdrawn. The automobile dealer lobby is quite robust.)

        In the U.S., production is ordered in advance by the dealers (based on allocations – it’s not “free order”), the manufacturers produce the ordered vehicles plus “lot roundups – at my old employer, cars were produced in lots of 50 for efficiency of paint booths, then “cash draft” the dealership’s floor plan (like auto pay on a bill) when the vehicle is shipped. Manufacturer’s like that the inventory is pushed off onto the dealerships as they have already been paid for them and carrying the inventory is now the dealer’s problem, not theirs.

        • Sams says:

          Thanks for insight on the US car retail system. A system that is very different around the globe.

    • Serge says:

      I just ordered new BMW and it was completed from factory in Germany in less then 2 months. Already in SC. No delays, NO price gouging.

      • Nemo 300 BLK says:

        If anyone is looking, you can buy several models of BMW from the marketplace brokers on lease hacker for 2-10% off. The 10% off model is the 7 Series which could be had for 15-20% off MSRP in 2019.

    • Brant Lee says:

      Normal inventories of what? Gas, electric? Who really knows what will be the majority on the auto lots in just five years?

      Can gasoline be kept below $4? I’m sure an even bigger push is coming on electric and how will anyone know what to buy? The states are probably about to be flooded with cheap-ass made Chinese electric cars.

      • Anthony A. says:

        Cheap-ass electric Chinese cars won’t be here unless they can pass U.S. NHSTA safety standards. Then they will need to have some kind of dealer/service network. It’s not as easy as just loading a ship with cars and dropping them off at a port.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          And sadly, even “loading a ship with cars and dropping them off at a port” isn’t easy right now…

        • El Katz says:

          Automobiles don’t have the same limitations in the port as other merchandise. Most are “drive on / drive off” ships, not containers. The issue is rail cars and carriers, some of which have lost drivers due to the lower volumes.

          Materials and labor costs in China aren’t as low as they once were. The manufacturers also tried Mexico, but the criminal activity (damage and theft) while in transit has made that a less-than-attractive alternative. Even with armed guards (bought off) and locked enclosed rail cars (broken into while paid off armed guards look on) the rampant theft and vandalism continue.

  5. Joe Saba says:

    Well as one who grew up with FEW if any ‘chips’
    maybe IF WE MADE VEHICLES that ran whether or NOT we had 3,000 computer chips would be ‘better’
    maybe NOT having so many ‘dead on side of road’ chips would enable OLDER MODELS to remain relevant

    • Apple says:

      ♬ If I could turn back time
      (If I could turn back time)
      If I could turn back time
      (If I could turn back time)
      If I could turn back time, ohh baby ♬

    • cd says:

      definitely too many sensors in cars today….I remember when we had a cold snap in nor cal back in 2010-11 and Lexus had a sensor in spare tire that the cold weather would set off based on tire pressure change and it just caused fixed ops side of dealership a lot of pain……

      that’s why old trucks are worth a lot

      • Old school says:

        My 2004 Mercedes is loaded up with sensors. Several have failed. I just clear them all out before I drive. Takes about 5 seconds I set a goal of milking the car to 2024 or 200,000 miles. It rides wonderfully.

        Since I went to two wheels I have cut my use of the car to maybe 4000 miles per year from 12,000 so I am 10 years away from 200,000 miles and maybe I will shoot for 2030. I should inherit at least one or two cars by then so I am out of the car buying business.

        • Prince Gbanga says:

          Yeah, because with early-2000s you *still could* remove the sensors, or replace them with a dummy load resistor.

          That ship sailed around 2007-2012ish, depending on manufacturer.

          MY2020 was when it got really insane: all US cars from that year onward have cell phones in them. Whether you were informed about it or not. If you don’t believe me, get an RF power meter. It’s in there.

        • El Katz says:

          That’s one of the many purposes of the “shark fin” on the roof….

  6. Adam Dalgliesh says:

    Probably there is such a high level of demand for cars because many people have been driving the same car since the 20007-8 recession or even earlier. Most people have been experiencing tight financial circumstance since 2007-8, leading them to run their old cars until they had irretrievably died. That recession never really ended before the 2020 pandemic recession began.

    I am still driving a 2008 Honda that I bought used in 2010. i can’t afford to replace it.

  7. Depth Charge says:

    This whole abortion can’t last. I am going to laugh heartily when my phone starts ringing off the hook with desperate car salesmen. You see, I had been looking to buy something new. That ship sailed. Unless it’s the best deal in history, I’m simply not interested in dealing with these greedheads ever again. I can make my vehicle last the rest of my driving life if I want. I really don’t drive that many miles – less than the national average. And I’ve started to ration my trips like I did last time fuel prices spiked. While I can afford it, I really don’t like burning it senselessly.

  8. Seneca’s Cliff says:

    A couple of old school electrical engineers I know are talking about starting a business where they buy a bunch of those chip-less pickups mothballed at the end of the assembly line that are waiting for semiconductors. Then they will replicate all the missing functions with old fashioned hard wired circuits run by vacuum tubes, and pack them in to the space no-one really uses in those useless little 4 foot cargo beds. Top it off with a sheet of clear acrylic sealed over the top of the bed with silicon and you are good to go. Looks cool too, like a giant tube amp on wheels.

    • Anthony A. says:

      Vacuum tubes…LOL! Hey, when I was a kid, my 1941 Plymouth’s radio had vacuum tubes in it, and it worked (AM only). But boy, was the giant back seat a sight to see!

    • Old school says:

      I have a nice memory of be a little kid and my dad having an old 2 door basic Plymouth maybe around 1950. I can still see the warm glow of a light or vacuum tube under the dash and the sound of the clutch pedal as the spring pushed it up hard. Remember those cars were cold in winter as they had a lot of metal inside.

      • MiTurn says:

        My father-in-law had an old Valiant with ‘three-on-the-tree.’ Remember those, anyone?

        Weird to drive for sure. I preferred my mom’s old pushbutton Rambler.

        • Xavier Caveat says:

          I jacked up my Nash Metropolitan, had airbags inserted, with kangaroo bars for a bumper.

    • roddy6667 says:

      You could heat the truck and maybe a small greenhouse with the excess heat thrown off by the tubes. Maybe a rolling cannabis grow room.

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      …and that section, at least, partially EMP-resistant! (Of course you’ll need to ask your favorite parts store to stock vac tubes next to the fuses, fuse links and relays…).

      may we all find a better day.

    • Pea Sea says:

      Sounds like a good idea. You would only need several thousand vacuum tubes to replicate the functions of those chips, but you could simply put the whole thing in a large U-Haul trailer (which would also contain the gasoline generator that you would need to power the filaments and provide plate voltage to all those tubes).

  9. ThePetabyte says:

    The hatred for technology in this thread is hilarious. I for one can’t wait for the new Intel fabs in AZ to flip the tables on this shortage in the future and produce i7s for the price of a movie ticket!

    • Depth Charge says:

      The NSA loves you, Comrade.

    • ivanislav says:

      I for one applaud Intel’s new Big.Little architecture that allows them to flaunt the higher core clocks of a few larger cores and a higher total core count that includes the less performant ones! If you can’t beat ’em, cheat ’em!

    • Seneca’s Cliff says:

      Don’t hold your breath while you are waiting. Intel’s Arizona fabs are just “copy plants” where they replicate exactly what they have developed at Ronler Acres in Oregon. The latest fab,which is to be replicated in Chandler, when the process is working has been under construction for 5 years and is just getting the tools installed now. Intels last new fab at Ronler acres took 5 years longer than planned to turn out useful chips and this one is much more complicated. The word around the local brew pubs where the Intel Engineers hang out is that it is crapshoot that this one will be dialed in any faster.

      • Prince Gbanga says:

        Technically all Intel plants are “copy plants”.

        There’s even a Wikipedia article about this:

        http://www.wikipedia.org slash wiki slash Copy_Exactly!

        (don’t want Wolf’s automated-antispam bot to freak out because I posted a clickable url…)

        • Seneca’s Cliff says:

          Not so Prince. If you read the article you will see that the copy-exactly process is the discipline of exactly replicating the development plant to the manufacturing plant. Modern chip plants can not be scaled down to laboratory size and the copy exactly system requires the development site to be the same size as the”copy” manufacturing plant. The fabs in Oregon are the development sites ( or R&D) sites. Due to the outsized influence of Tektronix on many aspects of the the chip design and manufacturing process it has been that way since Intel moved their development work from the Bay Area to Oregon back in the days when Phoenix was little more than a motley collection of drive-ins and trailer parks.

      • Prince Gbanga says:

        Technically all Intel plants are “copy plants”.

        There’s even a Wikipedia article about this:

        wikipedia slash wiki slash Copy_Exactly!

        (don’t want Wolf’s automated-antispam bot to freak out because I posted a clickable url…)

      • NBay says:

        Don’t forget “Lab on a Chip”….it’s the latest thing for fast testing for most any “important biomarker”….so the Docs know the exact amount and combos of “magic bullets” you “need” to be “saved” from…..well….whatever it is you need to be saved from….which is on another computer they can also refer to quickly, just in case they forgot some med school training because they decided to pursue learning investing to maintain an “acceptable” lifestyle.
        We have come a long long way from pulse oximeters……..

    • Dan Romig says:

      ThePetabyte,

      At the risk of being a broken record and repeating myself, the technology has two sides to it. The question is: do you want a simple, basic utilitarian transport, or do you want the performance that the new technology delivers?

      Laws and regulations have shaped what the automakers can offer to buyers, and even the most simple car of today has a lot of tech in it. And the hi-tech machines are indeed complicated to the point where a back-yard mechanic (like me) is over their head on taking care of some of the things that need to be maintained.

      My 1975 280Z was a blast to drive. I built a motor puller for my Datsuns which is still in the garage (long hood line to get at the inline-six). My 2016 M4 is a blast to drive. I will probably never turn a wrench to it. The Z was cheap, fast and simple. The M4 is expensive, much faster and much more complicated.

      Both of these cars have their place for auto enthusiasts. For me, the performance is well worth the price of being complicated.

    • Lynn says:

      I love technology. I hate things that break down and don’t work right and can’t be fixed easily.

  10. Sams says:

    – Large inventories of cars at the dealership may be an American thing. In other markets the cars may be built to order or “stored” in transport.

    – Some car brands are trying the “showroom” model where the cars to be sold are in storage somewhere else, in transport or to be built on order.

    – The average age of cars in the USA tick up even with record low sales. Some do postpone their buy and drive that old car a little bit longer.

    – Low sales in 2020 result in less 2020 models on the second hand market in the future.

  11. Kenny Logins says:

    The days of supply vs manufacturer is interesting.

    Ie, Land Rover and Jaguar are essentially the same business but opposite ends.

    So similar logistics, so demand driven low supply for the Land Rover product.

    It’d be interesting to try get the data weighted by annual sales, and also somehow indicate if it’s low supply driven, or high demand driven.

    There are clearly winners and losers in there.

    My gut feeling is no one wants Jaguars or Alfa Romeo, so they’ve got plenty of supply… but are they managing to cash in “because inflation”?

    When it starts to flip back it’ll be interesting to see which car values drop fastest too… will it be the ones that were in highest demand and largest shortage now, and selling for silly money?

    Thanks for putting together the data Wolf…!

  12. historicus says:

    When central bankers have their foot on the scales of interest rates, everything, EVERYTHING becomes imbalanced and out of whack.

    Interest rates are to economies what water is to nature.

    • perpetual perp says:

      Agreed. So why is Fed pumping out debt? You want to get higher interest rates? Simple, shrink the supply of debt. Of course then you get a different population of whiners.

    • Old school says:

      Who can value gold? Now it is mainly a vote on Fed competence. It’s interesting that it broke all it’s moving averages after Powell laid out his plan. To me it looks relatively expensive, but seems reasonable that it can make a new high as Fed seems to be in the most trouble ever.

  13. Michael Engel says:

    1) The days of large inventory on dealers lots are probably gone.
    2) The independent dealers became online brokers taking commission.
    3) Their prime RE locations on major hwy’s are almost empty. Expensive cost center doing nothing all day. They need miniaturization.
    4) They make money on commission, maintenance and repairs.
    5) They cannot afford to fill their parking lots with the new inflated inventory prices. They don’t have enough capital. They don’t have to, at least for a while.
    6) The future : online sales, RE liquidating, maintenance and repairs. Or expansion : taking new lines, carrying more mfg names, few disruptive names.
    7) Ford and GM can build their own boiler rooms, using their online teams to compete with them. Let them do repairs, sell whatever they can in their multi mini showrooms, especially used cars sales.

    • El Katz says:

      2. Nope. Dealers are not brokers. Manufacturers still control production. There isn’t much of a “build to order” market in the U.S. during normal times.

      3. They’re empty today. Tomorrow? Maybe not. They don’t do nothing all day. Try and get a service appointment same day. They also have wholesale parts distribution in their local markets. The indies have to get their OEM parts from somewhere (and some of the aftermarket stuff doesn’t cut it and will throw codes, even with a new part, due to lower tolerances). Even with the reduced maintenance of EV vs ICE, people will still crash their cars, components will fail, wheel alignments will still be required, etc.. Manufacturers are already looking at reducing minimum facility requirements based on future business requirements. They noticed long before the customer did.

      4. Auto dealerships (U.S.) don’t make “commissions”. They purchase the unit at wholesale and sell for what the market will bear – Nordstrom doesn’t make commissions on Ferragamo shoes.

      5. Much of the inventory on dealer lots are floor planned with banks or captive finance companies. At the current interest rates, it’s a no brainer. No need for capital (floor plans are like HELOC’s…. the dealership has a line of credit that they can tap at any time).

      6. Multi line representation is often contractually forbidden in the franchise agreements. A dealer signs on as a single line – needs to provide adequate facilities for the existing and additional brands. If the dealer chooses not to, their franchise agreement can be terminated.

      7. Ford and GM cannot build their own boiler room operations. Illegal in most, if not all, states. No “mini showrooms” as distance between like brand sales outlets is governed by state laws. Service outlets cannot infringe on dealer market areas per law. Dealers or their families are often present on state legislatures so any manufacturer efforts in those areas are usually fruitless. Used car sales are a different animal, but even those are subject to zoning and the cost of admission is high if there is a service element due to environmental regulations. Try and open a body shop.

  14. Michael Engel says:

    1) BOJO BOE raised interest rate from 0.1 to 0.25, but UK Nov 2021
    inflation rate was 6.8%.
    2) Crypto Lagard didn’t will stay NR with 4.9% CPI, the highest since inception.
    3) JP put a threat on inflation, raising interest rates, and built a war chest full of RRP to liquidate.
    4) UST10Y minus DET10Y might breach Oct 2018 high @2.843 on the
    way to 4%.
    5) The smart money will park in US10Y buying US dollars
    6) We might have inflation along with a strong dollar.
    7) We might have higher gold along with a strong dollar, because most of the word currencies deflate relative to the dollar, ex : China USD/CNY and Israel USD/ILS.

  15. DanS86 says:

    NINJA Loans are exhausted? LOL. Honda dealer keeps texting me to buyback my 2013 Honda Accord 6MT Sport (Car of the Year Car and Driver). Audi’s too expensive for the Plebs???

    Why is Toyota trading at a low value?

  16. Michael Engel says:

    AI don’t like Gold or BOJO baby , or both BOJO and gold.

  17. ChrisLongs says:

    Wolf,
    Does less inventory mean less car sales personnel and smaller lots in the future?

    UK experience is multi manufacturer sales outlets eg FIAT ,KIA, Hyundai etc.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Yes, there is a possibility of that. It could very well be that the industry will not go back to the old ways of huge lots full of cars waiting for buyers. It may switch much of the business to ordering and waiting (Americans are now getting used to this), and allow only some room for impulse buying. If that is the case, auto dealers will re-arrange the business to suit that model. It would be much more capital efficient. If this ordering is mostly done online without test drives, etc., a dealer might get away with fewer sales people, and lots could be smaller.

      • Robert Hughes says:

        Wolf. In a future article you might explore demographics and cars. Aging population which has generally more money, but drives alot less. Why replace if only driving 2 to 4 k a year? Millenials, WFH, relocations to smaller cities, other trends are also affecting sales. Seems like future will not be the past.

        • Roger says:

          Rob

          You called? In my misspent youth 50+ years ago I had rallied Datsun 510’s, owned a new 69 Charger RT 440 (the transmission of which blew up about two weeks after I sold it), three Datsun 240 Z’s (two of which I literally drove so hard I destroyed the rack and pinion steering) and I almost bought the 7th Jag V12 XKE to be sold in Canada BUT inspecting it at the Jag dealer this brand new, just off the boat beauty, was already rusting (could not believe it, didn’t buy it, still regret not buying it).

          I then bought and held for at least a decade each, Chevy Cavaliers and Chev Impalas.

          I now own a 2017 Chey Spark which rides likes, feels like and reminds me of my beloved Datsun 510’s. Sigh…

          Oh yes the colour of the Spark (nicknamed Sparky) is “toasted marshmallow” (gotta love Chevy’s marketing) and has only 9,500 KM on it.

          Don’t know what it would cost but when my incurable cancer finally gets me (assuming Covid 67 or 92 doesn’t first) I wonder how much it would cost to be cremated in it!

          So yes – demographics are going to be a factor to consider.

          Pedal to the metal man!

      • Anthony A. says:

        Continuing on that theme, why not just eliminate the dealer’s sales department and just have online ordering from a website and a brick and mortar service facility? I know that will rattle some “protections” for the dealers, but it will sure make buying easier, especially if you don’t want a test drive before selection and buying.

        Personally, I want to see, feel and drive a new car before I make a financial commitment, but a lot of younger folks could care less about that process.

        • Sams says:

          The showroom will provide you the possibility to see, feel and drive a demo car before you purchase. Either at the showroom or online.

        • El Katz says:

          Anyone who’s bought a car knows to touch the one you want before you sign the papers. Go read up on the Carvana debacles, including their inability to provide clear title in multiple situations – which violates most states motor vehicle laws.

          I wouldn’t buy a car online. That’s the equivalent of buying a car on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and having it shipped sight unseen – especially if it’s ab – used. Some Youtube celeb (who also is a licensed car dealer) bought a 70’s Road Runner on Bring a Trailer for $100K+ and got hosed.

          Under current franchise law, odds are that any online purchases through a franchised dealer would require many of the same processes as is the current standard. Manufacturers have been working on a “streamlined sales process” using the internet for the past decade – with limited success and some phenomenal failures (disclosures were one of the key stumbling blocks). The goal at my old alma mater was the 45 minutes purchase from arrival to departure. Online credit application and qualification, etc., and so on were all part in the mix. As mentioned in other posts, manufacturers (with the exception of Tesla that has special dispensation in several states – but not all) are forbidden to retail cars direct to consumer.

          Another key element is the evaluation of the used vehicle and appraisal. You can’t just hold a car up to the phone to appraise it. The car might look nice in a photo, but have been t-boned with hidden frame damage, have bald tires, worn out brakes – which is often where online sales come off the rails. Everyone’s car is “excellent” in their mind… but most are average at best.

          Lots of complexity with motor vehicle laws, credit disclosures, installment transaction cancellation rules, and the like make online sales challenging. Add in the human element…… and, Whee!

        • Sams says:

          Thanks for insight on the US car retail system El Katz. A system that is very different around the globe.

          Different places, different laws.
          Some places if bought unseen the buyer is actually better of legally. Then the car is sold as advertised and documented, not as seen. With a car less than say three years old the seller better state that the car is not as god as can be expected of a three-year-old car.

          Evaluation of used vehicle could be farmed out third parties. That is not uncommon here, to have the car inspected by a representative of an organization like the AA before buying. A check at the vehicle register and property register will show who the legal owner is and if there are any liabilities on the car. The vehicle register will also show if the car have passed the semi annually safety inspection and is roadworthy. The number of previous owners and the mileage at the safety inspections show up, given quite some information on the history of the car.

  18. MiTurn says:

    I’m hoping that the rocket shot upward in the price of used cars will soon have a similar reverse slope — straight into the ground, and then some. A tulip-mania-type price adjustment.

    Then I’ll buy.

    • Old school says:

      Since Fed screws around with dollar it’s hard to invest. But I think Lacy Hunt’s theory is right, we are debt saturated. At one time when government borrowed and spent money it had a positive multiplier into economy. No longer.

      Any more government spending is now a negative multiplier after a few quarters of growth. Japan got there first, then Europe and now USA.

  19. Michael Engel says:

    Buying tails day

  20. Michael Engel says:

    1) The Turkish inflation : USD/TRY a new all time high. USD sip Turkish coffee every night, all night, but within 2-3 years it might get a heart attack.
    2) The cost of producing Toyota in Turkey is falling. Turkey export
    Toyota and other industrial products to the Eurozone and the middle east, bringing home Euros or dollars and gold.
    3) The cost of extracting oil, copper, gold, silver lithium… is falling all over
    the world.
    4) Co selling all over the world, bringing US dollars, will make money, because their cost of production, their break even in their local currencies are down, in dollars terms.

  21. dishonest says:

    Wolf, this is your bag. As an insider in the car business, how much of the bushel basket full of electronics is actually needed.

    That is, too what degree is the driving experience enhance by the chip tsunami?

    As opposed to how much of this crap has been added to enhance the bottom line of the business chain from manufacturer to the retailer.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Most Americans that buy new cars LOVE loaded cars, and all the toys they have. They take this stuff for granted now, such as the climate control system, the back-up camera, the electronic entry system, the dashboard, the windshield wipers that come on automatically when it starts raining, the automatic headlights, the 10-speed electronically controlled transmission, all this stuff. Even I’ve gotten used to it and don’t want to drive without it.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        Wolf-don’t forget engine management-more and more computing power/distribution required to squeeze max miles while maintaining performance from motive energy, petro or electron…

        may we all find a better day.

  22. Michael Engel says:

    Visit your local car dealer in the mall. The prime RE will be sold.
    The safe lots in the back will do maintenance, repairs, including limited inventory.

    • El Katz says:

      Not. Legal. Under current dealer laws. It’s already been done. It has been being done since the “mall shows” in the 1980’s. Sadly, a vehicle cannot be sold from those locations.

  23. ru82 says:

    I was in Europe and rented a car recently. I am not sure what their fascination is with manual stick shift these days? I am not sure if you can find a manual car in the U.S. but every time I go to Europe it seems to be the other way around? All I find is stick shifts to drive.

    • Dan Romig says:

      ru82,

      One nice thing about my 6-speed manual sports car is that if some kids try and carjack it from me in the Twin Cities, they may not be able to drive it away.

      (Most important line from Repo Man: “Only an asshole gets killed for a car.”)

    • El Katz says:

      Fuel economy. Engine braking. Better performance Simplicity of repair (vs. an automatic). IIRC, even when driving an AT, the Europeans put their cars in neutral when stopped at a traffic light. Easier to do with an MT.

      • Marc D. says:

        Performance isn’t better anymore. Modern automatics and dual-clutch transmissions have more gears (up to 10 in some new cars) and can shift faster than a human can.

        But Europeans still drive a lot more manuals than Americans do. They’re hard to find here anymore, except in sports cars (and the majority of those don’t even have them anymore).

        • El Katz says:

          Yep. The dual clutch Formula 1 inspired electronic shifting transmissions do shift faster than a human… but you won’t find them on an econo-box. Plus, with all the servos, etc., they are a tad expensive to repair. Go price a clutch replacement on a Aston.

          I have a 9 speed ZF transmission in my technomobile. It’s the most schizophrenic transmission I’ve ever had the displeasure to own.

          The conventional slush-o-matics are still inferior (and more prone to expensive repairs – especially the “rubber band” transmissions (aka CVT’s – continuously variable transmissions that have an in the wild life expectancy of about 50K)

        • Marc D. says:

          Have to beg to differ on the conventional automatics still being inferior. They’ve gotten very quick, too. E.g., BMW uses them on cars like the M5, a ridiculously fast sedan. It has an 8-speed conventional automatic.

          But on a typical econobox, I agree the manual might likely still outperform the automatic, which wouldn’t be as good as the one BMW uses.

        • Dan Romig says:

          12 gears in the rear. 2 gears in the front. Push-button wireless Bluetooth buttons on each side of the brake levers.

          Tap the right button & the rear derailleur’s servo motor, which is powered by a detachable battery to recharge it, moves the chain down to a smaller gear. And this is faster and more precise than any other method. Tap the left button, and the chain is moved to the next larger gear.

          Tap them both simultaneously, and the front derailleur moves to the different chain ring.

          Both derailleurs have LED indicator lights that tell me how much charge is left when in they get the radio signal to shift; a green light glows for a second when all is good.

          When riding in a 50 x 16 gear (for example), and about to approach an incline, two quick taps to the right button & a double-tap puts me in a 37 x 14 in less than one second.

          SRAM RED eTap also has hydraulic disc brakes. Bicycle technology — I love it.

          Unfortunately I’m still waiting on parts from Shimano for my new winter bike to be completed — 72 days after my order & down payment.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Was it a true stick-shift with a clutch, or was it an electronic stick shift without clutch?

      • ru82 says:

        Clutch. LOL It makes it hard to text and drive. Just kidding on the text and drive

  24. Depth Charge says:

    I checked out a volume Toyota dealer’s website today, and they have more new inventory than I’ve seen in the past 6 months. Looks like things might be changing.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Depth Charge,

      I just checked the website of my local Toyota dealer in San Francisco. On their website, every single RAV4 listed was labeled: “in transit” with a footnote that said “contact dealer to confirm availability date.”

      In other words, they don’t have a single RAV4 on the lot, though they listed many on their website.

      So if there is an “in transit” label, the unit is NOT on the lot.

      If there is no “in transit” label on the unit, call up the dealer and ask when you can come in and test-drive a specific vehicle, and name the stock number, and see what they say.

      Across the dealers that I check, most of the listed units are on order and perhaps are just now being built, or are in transit, but haven’t arrived yet. Some may take weeks or months to arrive.

      Also note the $2,000 “dealer adjustment” on top of MSRP.

      • ft says:

        Counterpoint: I bought a new BMW X3M from the dealer in Fremont, CA last month. The car was listed on their website and present on their lot. I got $5k off MSRP and my trade-in brought $3k more than I paid for it. The deal was tentatively worked out by email before I actually went in to look at the car. I saw no evidence of the kind of crap your SF Toyota dealer is pulling.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          I think there are plenty of Jaguars too. If you look at the bar chart above, there are quite a few brands with plenty of inventory.

          Some the reasons behind that are beyond my grasp. For example Ram — trucks and vans by former Chrysler. I thought trucks and vans are in short supply. Well, maybe not anymore. Some stuff is a little baffling. But OK, we live in a confusing world.

          I don’t know any Ram dealers. But if someone working for a Ram store reads this, I’d love to know what the inventory status is.

      • Depth Charge says:

        Wolf – you are correct. I was pulling up “View All New Inventory” thinking they were showing inventory. Silly me, they are counting some “In Transit” vehicles as “in inventory?” That is completely misleading. Why are they doing this?

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Yes, it’s very misleading. And it’s in small print too. But they want to show something on their website. They don’t want their website to look like their lot (mostly empty).

  25. Michael says:

    You people never fail to entertain. Complaining about new cars that cost 5-10 times more than any reasonable house did in the 70’s. I still have my 1979 Corvette, along with four other cars. It goes everywhere that the latest cars go.

    I change the oil about every 5-7,000 miles, file the points as needed, change the spark plugs every 20,000 miles or so, and have fun.

    My 1937 Cord 810 is still running perfectly, and I drive it every few weeks or so.

    My 1999 GMC pickup still hauls mulch and firewood.

    My 1997 Expedition has had a spark plug blown out, along with the insert, but I fixed that.

    Even my wife’s new 2002 BMW 525I Touring Wagon does quite well, and it is the least dependable car that I own.

    What a bunch of whiners you all appear to be.

    In this disposable society I suppose we get what we deserve.

    I still ride my 1966 Honda Super90.

    I mentioned it in my book.

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