Editor’s note: Part four of a four-part series.
For local auto dealers, sparsely populated sales lots have become a common site in recent months.
These lots, once filled with rows of new and used vehicles, barely have time to park a car before it is sold and kicked out of the lot.
Similar to many dealerships across the country, Bell County auto dealers have struggled to keep inventory in stock. This is due to a nationwide shortage of auto parts, which is one of the problems in the global supply chain, with microchips for cars being one of the most difficult products to obtain.
Jeff Martin, executive director of the Texas Independent Automobile Dealers Association, said independent dealers in the state have been hit hard.
“As we all know, the production of new vehicles has continued to slow due to the computer chip shortage and other supply chain shortages,” said Martin. “From an independent dealership’s perspective, these shortages make the challenge of finding and transporting vehicles incredibly more difficult and expensive compared to the norm.
Garlyn Shelton Auto Group, which has several dealerships in Temple, is a local auto dealership that has been hit hard by these shortages.
Brian Duble, group chief executive, said company locations typically have between 700 and 800 new cars on their lots. Now, he said, they only have about 150 at a time, not counting used cars.
While there may not be many vehicles on the lots, Duble said dealers are selling new cars that they know will arrive before they even get to Temple.
“One thing it’s helped us do, as an industry, is help us sell our pipeline inventory,” said Duble. “These are the vehicles arriving. We have found that customers are willing to wait three days, five days, two weeks or a month to get the right vehicle.
For local Garlyn Shelton dealers, Duble said, the company is fortunate to have done well in the past, getting better vehicle allocation from manufacturers.
Despite getting more vehicles than others, Duble said it can sometimes be difficult to know when a shipment will arrive.
Duble said two could arrive on the same day, with the next taking two weeks before she arrives. He said trucks usually arrive when they arrive, with no set schedule.
“You never see a salesperson more excited than when they see a transport truck, that’s for sure,” Duble said.
With a shortage of new vehicles, many have turned to buying used cars and trucks on local lots.
For Douglas McKinnon, owner of Village Motors of Salado, today’s vehicle market has become hectic. McKinnon, who worked in the industry for decades before semi-retiring at Salado, said he still had many friends in the industry to keep him posted.
“There are dealers who go completely crazy,” McKinnon said. “And there are places like Carmax and the big dealerships that pay people with a 2 or 4 year old (old) van what they paid when it was brand new.”
McKinnon said that while he doesn’t currently have as many vehicles as he would like, he remains as busy as he would like.
In order not to compete with the bigger dealers, McKinnon said he advertises locally and does not pay “stupid money”.
“I’m a little guy so I’m not fighting the big battle, it’s a much smaller battle for me,” McKinnon said. “I’m here on (Interstate 35) and I have a sign that says we’re buying cars, so we have a lot of villagers.”
Statewide, Martin said, dealers have to drive further than before to find used vehicles.
Martin pointed out that the franchised dealers were a contributing factor. He said these dealers are now hanging on to inventory that they would traditionally run through wholesale auctions.
This shortage of used vehicles has driven up prices and lower auction conditions.
“What we’ve seen is that used car dealers have to pay up to $ 4,500 more per vehicle than they did two years ago for the same vehicle, or they pay the same price for one. vehicle with 35,000 to 40,000 more miles and 3.5 to 4 years older, ”said Martin.
For Duble, his company decided not to compete with other dealers in auctions and instead goes directly to premises similar to McKinnon.
Duble also pointed out that buying local from residents gives the dealership a better idea of the condition of their product.
“We’ve certainly looked more to the public to buy people’s third vehicles that they might have, or second vehicles that they might not need,” said Duble. “It’s obviously good for them because we’re paying so much for them right now.”
Parts shortages don’t just stop with the purchase of a vehicle; they also extend to any repairs that need to be made.
Duble said that while many understand the shortages of vehicles, it has been more difficult for those who need to repair their cars.
“It’s been more frustrating for the customer than buying a vehicle because they can’t go anywhere without their car and some of these items are out of stock or in short supply,” said Duble. “So their cars have been broken down longer. “
Duble said some of the major hard-to-obtain parts are the same ones that automakers struggle to receive.
Few people in the area, according to Duble, really know how many microchips go into a modern vehicle to make it work.
“A lot of people think there are only a few microchips used in a vehicle,” Duble said. “But a vehicle can have between 100 and 1,000 microchips. There are a lot of components in the vehicle that communicate with each other.