MADISON, Wis. – A car shortage is making dealership lots look nearly deserted across Wisconsin.
Smart Toyota in Madison is right next to the Beltline. Thousands of people see it every day. But that sight has dramatically changed over the last few months. A lot that was once packed with cars is now nearly empty.
“We get a lot of questions from folks asking us if we're redoing the lot, or painting the lines,” said Smart Toyota assistant general manager Rob Jordan. “But no, we’re just out of cars.”
In Jordan’s 14 years working at the dealership, he’s never seen it like this.
“Typically we have about 600 vehicles on the lot. Right now we're fluctuating right between 10 and 20. If we get to 20, it’s a good day,” he laughed.
Because of the pandemic, there’s been a shortage of computer chips that go into new cars. That’s affecting most vehicle manufacturers. That impact is starting to grow to home appliances and computers.
Toyota has a slightly different problem, though.
“We have enough chips. Our issue is with a chemical plant in Texas that got shut off for several weeks in the spring when Texas had those power issues,” Jordan said. “Our issue is getting enough foam to put in the seats, to put it into cars.”
Customers could be waiting months to get the car they want.
“If they’re somewhat flexible, we're probably looking at about a month to get the vehicle, up to two months maybe,” he said. “If they’re very specific about what they want on color and options, it can be three to four months right now.”
Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t seem to be getting better anytime soon.
“Through July and August, we're hoping to tread water. We're looking to get in about as many cars as we think we’ll sell. Then starting in the fall, we’ll start to see our inventory start increasing again,” Jordan said. “We’re hoping to be back to normal inventory levels in January or February of next year.”
Prices have risen accordingly. As the demand stayed the same, and supply dropped dramatically, some places you can find cars selling for over the sticker price.
So what do you do if you need a new car? This shortage has trickled down to the used car market, making them harder to find and more expensive. If you can’t repair your current ride, Jordan’s best advice is be ready to wait.
“If you're looking for a new car, the best thing is to be patient and be flexible,” he said. “If you can be flexible in the cars and option choices you're looking for, we could probably get you a vehicle fairly quickly.”