GM Could Stop Building Camaros for Six Months and Still There Would be Enough Inventory

Well, that was short-lived. After somewhat positive, very incentive-fueled results for the Chevrolet Camaro in September and October, November’s numbers told a very different story.

General Motors’ underwhelming launch of the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro produced significantly fewer sales in 2016 than the old Camaro managed in its final year. Camaro sales through the first eight months of 2016 were down 15 percent, year-over-year. But GM then threw down the incentive gauntlet in September with massive discounts, intending to clear an inventory glut.

It worked. Sort of. The Chevrolet Camaro outsold the Ford Mustang in September — and again in October — but inventory levels scarcely decreased. Autumn simply isn’t the time to sell large numbers of pony cars, even if the Camaro attracted more buyers thanks to average discounts of $4,700 per car.

Regardless, that two-month Camaro win streak turned out to be a two-month blip. General Motors scaled back Camaro incentives in November 2016. Consequently, Camaro volume declined, the Camaro was once again handily outsold by the Ford Mustang, and there are now 177 days of Camaro supply across America.

From $4,700 per Camaro in October 2016, GM provided “just” $3,508 of discounts per Camaro in November 2016. As a result, GM reported only 4,893 total U.S. Camaro sales last month, an 8-percent year-over-year decrease and the lowest monthly total for the Camaro in two full years.

Ford Mustang volume decreased, as well, but that 15-percent year-over-year drop translated to 6,196 November sales. The Mustang’s November pony car victory — its first since August but its 23rd in the last 25 months — drove up the Ford’s U.S. year-to-date sales lead over the Camaro to 33,163 units with one month remaining on the calendar.
In calendar year 2015, with the new Mustang all the rage and the Camaro at the end of its fifth-gen tenure, the Mustang outsold the Camaro 44,847 units. Between 2010 and 2014, the Camaro outsold the Mustang by an annual average of nearly 6,800 units.

Dodge Challenger sales are down 4 percent to 59,176 units in 2016, which is on pace to be the first year since the nameplate’s return that Challenger sales won’t improve, year-over-year. Challengers were discounted by an average of $3,649 per vehicle in November, according to J.D. Power PIN data. Ford’s average per-Mustang incentive was $2,723.

With an incentive cutback and decreasing sales in November, Chevrolet’s already high level of Camaro inventory further ballooned, just as we approach a season in which Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger sales flag. December figures should be slightly higher than November’s, but January and February sales are expected to decrease dramatically. January is historically the lowest-volume month of the year for Camaro sales; January and February account for 17 percent of the calendar but roughly 14 percent of annual Camaro volume.

Yet it’s as we approach these months that GM’s Camaro inventory has expanded to well in excess of 30,000 units, very nearly six months of supply.

In other words, if General Motors stopped building the Camaro at its Lansing, Michigan, assembly plant today, there are enough Camaros in stock at dealers and on their way to dealers to make it to the end of May 2017.

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