Small Cars In Short Supply Due To Cash-For-Clunkers Boom

August 5, 2009
2009 Ford Focus SE

2009 Ford Focus SE

Plan to swoop in and get the deal of the decade at the local lot by taking a new car off their hands? Sorry, but it looks like you might have missed your opportunity for some of the best deals.

Late last year, earlier this year, and even into this summer supply far outpaced demand for many brands, and cars were being shuttled off to holding lots or held in overflow lots at port. Needless to say, local dealerships typically had an oversupply, too, and an inventory that needed to be moved.

During that time we saw certain cars that had already been slow sellers before the real slowdown—including many SUVs and pickups—typically selling for thousands under retail; good deals were even to be had on more popular fuel-efficient models.

Earlier this year, Chrysler's dealers were among the most overwhelmed, with a glut of vehicles. Just as of February 1, Automotive News says, Patriot supply was at 221 days and the Caliber was at 243 days. That means they had enough vehicles already built to meet supply for about eight months.

It's only six months later, and they've already moved most of that backlog of vehicles—thanks to the so-called Cash for Clunkers program, which we've already covered at length. So if you are expecting a tremendous deal in addition to the federal incentive of up to $4,500, you're probably out of luck.

Figures for July inventories aren't out yet, but General Motors hasn't been doing nearly as well. As of July 1, GM's supply of the Chevrolet Aveo stood at a whopping 323 days, according to AN, while Chevrolet Cobalt inventories rose, but GM has already reported that it's cut its overall inventory down to a very respectable 64-day supply as of August 1.

Now, Automotive News reports, some small cars are actually in short supply; a suburban Detroit dealership simply can't get enough Ford Focus models to meet demand, and Escape supply is also very tight.

2009 Dodge Caliber SE

2009 Dodge Caliber SE

According to Automotive News, supply of the Jeep Compass and Dodge Avenger are down to just 15 days, while there's only a 17-day supply of the Dodge Caliber. Even the Chrysler Sebring sedan and PT Cruiser wagon are now less than 30 days of supply, and Chrysler recently reduced some of its standing incentives.

That's good news, and an indicator that automakers might dial up production, at least somewhat, in the near future. Chrysler has now starting to build vehicles—albeit much more mindful of supply—after months of idled assembly plants.

As for shoppers, it's a sign that the deals probably aren't going to get any better. Cash in on your clunker if you still can.

[Automotive News (sub)]

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