I'm looking at the 2018 Honda Odyssey. The car released 2 days ago. I called around and discovered local dealers only have ~10 2018's total for all trims. One local dealer initially listed a vehicle at MSRP - $4,000. 24 hours later, there are 0 discounts and they want MSRP + Dealer Adds + $. So I suspect the dealer didn't see this shortage coming. And, of the 4 cars this dealer has, only 1 has sold.

I feel like it's pointless to create an artificial shortage with so few vehicles. Even at MSRP what good does it do billion dollar Honda to profit ~$40,000 across 10 vehicles right? So there must be another reason.

Is it common practice for car companies to release new vehicles in low numbers? To perhaps test demand? Or to not flood the market with so much old stock in 2017 vans? Or maybe there is a production problem in Alabama where they make this vehicle.

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    What do you mean, "release"? Of course they have only a few, because they just started making them. They don't make all the cars they expect to sell before the start of the model year, they start building them and adjust production according to demand. – jamesqf May 28 '17 at 4:04

Do new automobiles typically release in low numbers?

and later you say

The car released 2 days ago. I called around and discovered local dealers only have ~10 2018's total for all trims.

So you are calling local dealers and they have ten after two days. Let's say you are in New York City, population eight million (about 2.5% of the United States population). That would suggest that there are around four hundred produced in two days (10 is 2.5% of 400), or two hundred a day. That would be four thousand a month (assuming four weeks, each with five workdays). Considering that the most sold in a month were 14,207 in June of 2013 and March's 7727 was the best this year, that seems to be a decent pace if a little slow to start.

Now, let's assume that you are using a local area with a population of only two million. This could still be New York City if you only call dealers in a quarter of the area. Their two day pace would put them on a rate to produce sixteen thousand the first month, which is more than they can reasonably expect to sell.

If your local area is an even smaller portion of the US overall, this might not actually be low inventory.

Don't forget that some dealers may also still have 2017 vehicles left. They might want to sell those before they order too many new vehicles. Particularly as they may not know what feature packages sell best yet. If they're willing to tell you that they have three 2018s (and sold a fourth), they should be eager to tell you how many 2017s they have. A high 2018 price gives them a better chance to sell the 2017s at a profit.

If you really want to check if they are having production problems, ask how long it will be to order a vehicle. For a US manufactured car, special order should fall in the five to eight weeks range. If that's what they're quoting, then there probably are not production problems.

When trading with a dealer, do your research, tell them what you believe a fair price is, and then be ready to walk if they won't give it to you. Be up front. Tell them that you're willing to pay $X to the first dealer that takes the offer. You'd prefer that dealer because (whatever--maybe they're closest), but you aren't paying more than $X. If they let you get in your car and drive away, then they really think they can get a better price.

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