Dealerships working through car shortage

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 9:43 PM EDT
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BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Car dealerships across West Virginia are struggling to keep their sales lots full, with increased demand from buyers and greatly reduced inventory due to factory shutdowns.

COVID-19 has impacted the normal summer clearance sales. Instead of trying to clear out the current model year to make room for new cars, dealerships are trying to find enough cars for buyers coming through the doors.

“One of the things that’s happened recently is there was a portion of pent-up demand, which means the sales that didn’t happen in February and March all the sudden started happening in May and June,” said Chris Miller, president of Dutch Miller’s five dealerships across West Virginia. “If you look around the lot and look at a picture of things, there is very little inventory out there. We do have stuff coming in and replacing it, but the pent-up demand in the marketplace has led to very, very frequent sales and a lot of high turnover in inventory.”

Miller’s Kia sales lot in Barboursville was only about half full on Wednesday afternoon when buyers arrived looking for new cars. Miller said the decreased inventory has slightly increased prices, but there are still significant deals and great financing options.

“There is less of an ability to sit down and be picky and go, ‘I want this color car with this color interior with this way,’” Miller said. “It’s more like, ‘I have this one and I have this one. Do you want to buy this one? Or do you want to buy this one? Or do you want to let the person who is waiting buy it?’”

Miller said the shortage is due to increased demand following the COVID-19 lockdown and many people looking to find new ways to travel after the pandemic.

Beth and Bonnie Gabbard went for a test drive on Wednesday and said they noticed the decrease in inventory, but are willing to wait until they are able to find the perfect car. They said the interest rates were too good to pass up and know there is a car that fits their needs on a sales lot.

Miller said factories are starting to reopen, depending on the brand, and that is keeping dealerships from completely running out of cars. Shipments are scheduled to be delivered in the coming weeks, and the new model year will only increase inventory.

Buyers are also able to shop online and have cars delivered to the completely sanitized and without any contact with someone who might be carrying the virus, Miller said.

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