Rough Road: Car Dealers Face Inventory Issues

Fall is typically new car season in the auto industry, when manufacturers release their new-year models and dealers offer discounts and incentives to make room for the new product. But, like most everything else in 2020, this year is much different for the auto business. Dealers now find themselves still restocking after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered auto plants for several weeks last spring, putting a major crimp in the supply chain.

Recent months have seen a comeback in auto sales, but dealers are scrambling to fill their lots. "They're starting to really see inventory building up," says KTRH Car Pro Jerry Reynolds. "The assembly plants have been cranking out cars as fast as they possibly can."

Nevertheless, buyers can expect a lack of selection on certain vehicles. "We're still seeing shortages of some of the really popular vehicles, especially the SUVs and some of the high-end pickup trucks," says Reynolds. "And that's because they sell as quick as they come in, so they're not really building any inventory."

While the new 2021 models are slower to make it to market this year, drivers can expect some big things when they do finally arrive. For instance, Ford recently unveiled its 2021 Mustang Mach 1, the first such version of the venerable sports car in 17 years. "It's very retro looking, and it will arrive at dealers next spring, but they have opened orders for them now," says Reynolds.

For those who still prefer buying cars the old-fashioned way--venturing out onto dealer lots--things are still far from normal, but they are getting better. "Overall, the (inventory) picture is much better today than it was just 60 days ago," says Reynolds.

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