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Pandemic causes inventory shortage for Shuswap car dealers

The supply chains will be ‘cramped for a while yet’

Make, model or year, it doesn’t matter; buying a vehicle in the Shuswap is not easy these days.

Like many other industries, car dealerships are having to contend with supply chain issues resulting from COVID as well as the Canadian dollar against the American.

“We finally have two new vehicles in stock that are unsold, probably the most we’ve had all year,” says Hilltop Toyota dealer Blair Reynaud. “More than 50 people have ordered, paid a deposit and and are waiting for their vehicles.”

Reynaud says hybrids are very much in demand, with the wait for them being anywhere from eight months to two years, depending on the model.

Like most other dealerships, he is concentrating on pre-owned inventory, the cost of which has never been higher.

“We are pretty much paying for used cars what we would have sold them for two years ago,” he says. “And all used SUVs and higher-end trucks are being bought up by dealers in the U.S.”

Reynaud says domestic dealers all have contacts with their American counterparts and get more for selling them Stateside because of the exchange rate.

“It’s been a tough go for all the car dealers,” he says. “The less inventory, the higher the prices, just like refrigerators or anything else.”

Braby Motors co-owner Chris Davis says the dealership has been lucky with inventory as manufacturers have continued to produce.

“Are we getting everything we want? No, but we’re getting a good selection of vehicles,” he says. “Some of them might not have all the options, but there’s still quite good a lot of them at the high end.”

Davis says there may be plants in Canada and Mexico but basically all cars are shipped out of the U.S.

“Vehicles coming across to Canada cost manufacturers more because of the dollar, so if they can sell them in the U.S., that’s what they prefer,” he says.

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Davis believes the supply chains will be “cramped for a while yet.”

He says the dealership is acquiring as many used cars as possible and customers inquire about them every day.

“There has been a price adjustment in the used cars, prices have come down,” he says. “What happens with that will depend on new vehicle availability over the next few months.”

Salmon Arm GM owner Ian Gray has been in the industry for 33 years and says his is definitely more of a pre-owned car dealership than previously, and that there’s another aspect to the shortage.

“GM is dealing with a shortage of rail cars, which has to do with the people they do business with for loading and unloading,” he says, noting he is pleased to be hiring just as many people, if not more, than before, including skilled technicians. “I do know there’s some major challenges in the world and the biggest shortage is people.”

As with most vehicle manufacturers, Gray says 95 per cent of customers order their vehicles and wait up to 16 months for their arrival because of the freight issues.

“Largely our problem now is 95 per cent of people used to find what they wanted on our lot, and now it’s the other way around,” he says, noting that by ordering and waiting, customers get what they want without compromise.

Gray began focusing on pre-owned inventory 20 months ago and says because he’s part of a dealer group, he has about 400 vehicles available.

“I feel good that we can supply customers with quality pre-owned vehicles and pass savings onto them,” he says. “We try to live by that.”

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