Car buyers are facing rock-bottom inventory at many dealerships

Burlington, VT (WCAX) – If you’ve gone car shopping recently, you’ve probably noticed that there aren’t many lots to choose from. Many car dealerships in the region are facing major inventory problems that started at the start of the pandemic.

“The pandemic has taught us all to really expect the unexpected,” said John Dabrull with The Automaster in Shelburne. “We have absolutely gone through waiting periods, some of my models are out for months. Some European cars with different supply chains and things like that – which are going to take a lot longer to come.”

The same is true on the road in a Burlington Mitsubishi. “We will generally have a very large selection of all models and colors to choose from. Therefore, consumers may not find the exact color they are looking for or the device,” said Tim Bedard of the dealership.

What is bothering dealerships is what is not happening on the production line. The industry has been grappling with global chip shortages for months. This week, General Motors and Ford announced they were ceasing production at some North American plants. And Toyota is cutting production by 40%.

But supply is less, demand is higher than last year, which is why there are so few vehicles on the lot.

“There’s always some apprehension about what the lack of cars can do for us, but we’re ready for that, we’ll figure it out,” Dabrul said.

From 2016 to 2019, sales were steady at between 43,000 and 46,000 per year, according to data from the Vermont Automobile Dealers Association. But in 2020, sales dropped 17 percent to 37,000. Sales soared again this summer – a few thousand more than pre-pandemic levels – but the pickings are still slim.

Greg Carpenter signed a lease on a new vehicle at The Automaster, but says the process took time. “We knew there was going to be a potential wait and we grabbed them ahead of time and tried to see if we could get something a few months in advance,” he said.

“More vehicles are already sold, going back to the time when you can order a vehicle however you like – we have gone back to that. So, it really brought back an element in the business that then It was fun,” Bedard said.

He says autumn near vacant lots could be a thing of the past. As for The Automaster, he says the shortage could last through the winter months.

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