If someone has their heart set on a vehicle with mud flaps, or a sunroof, they can get it — if they don’t mind waiting a while.
Waiting, say, until fall. If they're lucky.
“That will hold the vehicle up because they’re so far behind,” said Ross Wiegman, general sales manager at Alexandria Motors. “They won’t ship us the whole vehicle because of mud flaps.”
That's why he advises customers to decide how badly they want extras on their vehicles; if they can live without them, they'll get a vehicle much more quickly.
Buying a new vehicle in Alexandria is challenging right now, as it is across the country, because automakers and their suppliers can’t keep up with the market. New vehicles are among the many shortages caused by the pandemic-related slowdown of goods and services.
"Before, it might take a couple days to get the right one because we could do a dealer trade," said Jake Juettner, general manager of Juettner's Motors. "We all work pretty well with each other. But we aren’t able to do the dealer trades because none of us dealers have a great supply of inventory.”
They do have new vehicles on the lot, Juettner said. But if customers have a special color or feature in mind, “The wait is anywhere from eight weeks to 12 weeks but we do say it can be longer than that.”
However, that can still be faster than waiting for the right car or truck to show up on their lot, he said, as vehicles already spoken for seem to get delivered faster than a lot for general sales.
The lack of microchips is a well-publicized delay factor, and a critical one, but not the only reason for the slowdown.
“It’s all the suppliers,” Juettner said.
Wiegman said the problem has been going on for more than a year, and that their sales are about half of what they sold before the pandemic. Normally they would sell 50-60 new Chevies a month, whereas now they do about 30, and most of those are sold before they even hit their lot.
He said a shipment of new cars is supposed to arrive soon but he's not holding his breath.
“It’s hard to take anything seriously right now because they’ll tell us something will come in a month and it’ll come in three months,” Wiegman said.
The demand for used cars has also skyrocketed. Wiegman said he has hired an intern to scan Craigslist and Facebook to look for used cars for sale.
Those who bought a new vehicle two years ago are trading it in for within $1,000 to $2,000 of what they paid, he said.
Brooke Steinbring, who sells cars at Dan Welle Chevrolet, Buick, Chrysler, Dodge Jeep Ram in Sauk Centre, said it's been busy, but because there isn't any inventory, people think they are going out of business. But that is not the case.
Steinbring posted a note on her Facebook page explaining what was happening:
As the pandemic spread in the U.S., automakers switched from making cars to making ventilators, she explained. Then they scaled back the number of employees for health and safety reasons. When they started making cars again, they couldn't get enough parts from suppliers, and now they can't get enough computer chips that do things like run power windows, air conditioning and certain safety features.
"This isn't meant for sympathy but just to bring awareness," she wrote. "All dealers can do is hope for everyone's understanding and continued support during this crazy time."