One of the more arcane numbers automotive pundits follow is sales inventory, or how many selling days worth of cars are sitting on dealer lots nationwide. Industry experts consider 60 days worth of inventory to be average. Knowing this number, you can track a vehicle's popularity.
Consider, for example, Honda.
You might expect the subcompact Honda Fit and CR-V crossover to be popular. They are. There's a scant 35-day supply of the Fit hatchback, and a mere 24-day supply of the CR-V crossover nationwide, according to industry publication Automotive News. By contrast, there's a 73-day supply of the Ridgeline pickup and a 109-day supply of the Accord Crosstour. The Crosstour's daring design might be the chief cause of its poor reception among buyers, a symptom shared with Ford Motor Company's Ford Flex.
The Flex, a three-row crossover, uses retro station wagon styling not unlike that of a hearse. That might explain its 122-day supply. The Lincoln variant, the MKT, has a 148-day supply. Both vehicles are really nice to drive. But their styling? Well, like the Crosstour, they look better once you drive them.
But it's more than style that causes cars to stack up like firewood in July on dealer lots. Sometimes, it's because the car is exiting production, and with it, any marketing support.
Two full-size American cars no longer being built linger on dealer lots, according to Automotive News. The Lincoln Town Car has a 113-day supply, while the Cadillac DTS has a 110-day supply.
To anyone who follows industry sales, these numbers are no surprise. But there's one set of figures that might: sports car inventory.
In American's rush to embrace practicality in the form of crossover SUVs and fuel-efficient compacts, sports car sales are suffering. Chevrolet has a 151-day supply of Corvettes and a 102-day supply of Camaros. By contrast, there's a 54-day supply of Equinox crossovers.
Dodge is slightly more fortunate with the Challenger — there's a mere 81-day supply — but only 32 days worth of Caravan minivans.
Ford's supply of Mustangs is near normal, at 64 days, even if its supply of Explorers, at 40 days, isn't.
But it's more than American manufacturers who are affected. Mazda has a 94-day supply of the sublime RX-8 sports car and a 108-day supply of the classic MX-5 Miata, but a 41-day supply of fuel-sipping Mazda2 hatchbacks.
Most shockingly, Mitsubishi has a stunning 210 days worth of Eclipse sports coupes and a 224-day supply of Eclipse Spyders. That makes Mitsubishi's 176-day inventory of Outlander SUVs and 124 days worth of Lancer compacts seem almost normal, even if it isn't.
Could it be that in an age of uncertain employment, rising gas prices and shrinking home valuations, we live in a time where frivolity, or the expression of it, is no longer acceptable? Have we become a land where five doors and four cylinders trump two doors and a six-speed manual?
I hope not. I know that these figures are as of March 1, and that most people don't buy sports cars over the winter.
Still, doubt lingers, as do the sports cars.