To prevent building up large inventories, General Motors temporarily idled production of the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano this week. A GM representative confirmed that GM halted its Lake Orion, Michigan, plant because "we build to demand."
GM is struggling with high inventories of unsold cars across its lineup, despite continuing strong sales. At the end of November, GM reported that it had a 106-day supply of all its new cars -- and a 139-day supply of full-size pickups like the Chevrolet Silverado. Those are extremely high numbers and represent a huge backlog of unsold vehicles at factories and dealerships.
Sales of the Chevrolet Sonic compact remain strong -- the car averages nearly 7000 sales per month and has tallied 75,257 sales so far this year. But GM's production data show that the Lake Orion plant has built 93,932 Sonics through the first 11 months of the year, far more than have found homes with customers. Automotive News says the automaker has a 128-day supply of Sonics, or an inventory of about 25,700 cars.
Chevrolet Sonic spokesperson Annalisa Bluhm cautions, however, that this week's plant shutdown was scheduled because sales of small cars like the Sonic are usually slower in winter. The car's normal schedule calls for reduced production at the end of the year; Bluhm says buyers are spending money on holiday gifts and vacations, not cars, and rarely trek out to dealerships during snowstorms. It makes sense to reduce production ahead of slower sales months.
"We noticed that most people defer car purchases until the end of the first quarter," Bluhm told us. "We do the bulk of [Sonic] sales from spring to late fall."
Even with its slower sales, the Chevrolet Sonic is outpacing several of its key rivals. The Ford Fiesta recorded just 3688 sales in November and the Hyundai Accent managed 3260 sales, both worse than the Sonic's 5016 November sales. The Nissan Versa, however, beat the Chevrolet with 8826 sales last month.
GM also slowed production this week of the Buick Verano, a more luxurious version of the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan. The Verano is built alongside the Sonic at Lake Orion. The new model has racked up 36,222 sales so far this year, while the Michigan plant has built 54,908 units. AN says Buick has a 104-day supply of Veranos, or about 14,900 unsold cars.
Those figures compare favorably to one of the Buick Verano's chief rivals, the Acura ILX. The new Japanese compact has sold only 9766 units so far this year. In November, the Verano sold 3574 units compared to the ILX's 2108 sales.
GM has a holiday shutdown scheduled from December 21 to January 2, although plant managers can determine when to restart the assembly lines in order to meet anticipated needs.
Sources: Automotive News, GM