Dealers agree that patience and communication are key to getting through a tough season with unknown expiration dates, especially when it comes to repairs.
“One of the things we have no control over is getting parts. Is there a way to do that,” Glassman said. “… luckily we have quite a few replacement cars, but we’re trying to be smart about distributing those cars.”
Glassman said the uncertainty is straining employees.
“People have bought cars with the expectation that if they had a problem they would bring it in. History tells us that in the normal course of business the car will be repaired after a reasonable period of time. ..so when you run into some of these supply chain issues, naturally not being able to get people in their cars can raise anxiety,” he said.
Muncy said the best thing LaFontaine did to keep customers happy was increasing its rental fleet last year.
Before the pandemic, most dealers only had new rental cars, he said. From about 3,000 he was allowed to drive 5,000 miles before moving into new car inventory for sale. But given the historical stock shortages, that wasn’t an option.
“We didn’t have any new cars to put in the rental vehicle,” he said. “We went out and purchased hundreds of additional used vehicles to meet the needs of our guests in that respect.”
Fox Motors did the same.
“We have adapted quite a bit at multiple stores, using used vehicles as needed and putting them in service loaner vehicles,” he said.
Daniel, located in Maple Hill, Kalamazoo, said it’s been a terrible time in general for the sales side of the dealership business, but identified one silver lining of inventory shortages. People need parts and service to boost your business in your garage.
“Our parts business has grown significantly this year,[and]our service business has also grown significantly this year,” he said, but declined to share specific numbers.
Wright of Shaheen Chevrolet in Lansing echoed the experience, saying the surge in business also meant a shortage of technicians working on the vehicles.
“There’s more demand and not enough people to fix the cars,” he said.
What this perfect storm means for customers, Wright said, is that they are being forced to adapt to a car-free life by carpooling, busing, or using alternative modes of transportation. . For the most part, Shaheen Chevrolet’s customers, many of whom are GM employees or GM associates, were an understanding group.
“People apparently get it,” Wright said. “It’s like going back in time, before loaner cars existed, before everyone owned more than one car, and so on. You had to figure that out.”
Fox Motors’ Moore said he doesn’t have a crystal ball, but he has a “positive feeling” that parts shortages will ease this year.
“We are much better than we were six months ago,” he said. “…we feel that inventory supply could improve in 2023.”
Muncie of LaFontaine agreed.
“We are still seeing delays,” he said. “But overall, I’d say we’re in a much better position than we were six months ago in terms of overall inventory and the movement of customers who were waiting for tips.”