The squeeze on new vehicle supplyDriver
By Andrew Maclean
New car customers are stuck between a rock and hard place as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As New Zealand has largely contained the coronavirus through strict border control measures, it has, on the whole, remained relatively healthy as a country – physically as well as financially.
And yet it has a couple of first-world problems that are creating four-wheeled headaches. For starters, travel restrictions mean we can no longer spend our savings to jump on a plane for an overseas family vacation so cashed-up Kiwis have returned to car dealerships in record numbers to upgrade their wheels for something newer, safer, more luxurious, more spacious or, in most cases, more adventurous. Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue but because we are wholly reliant on imported vehicles, and the global supply of new vehicle stock is under extreme pressure, this has created long wait lists on popular models.
The supply issue
The supply issue stems from the impact the coronavirus has had on a number of factors in the production and delivery process around the world.
- Firstly, some major car factories in countries that were hardest hit by COVID were forced to close down, or run at a severely reduced rate, during 2020, which naturally meant that less vehicles were produced.
- Secondly, the local management teams for most of the mainstream brands sold in New Zealand initially cut their forward orders when the pandemic first erupted, not knowing how long it would last, in order to protect their dealer network and overall bottom line. And even when the first shoots of a recovery began to break through late last year, re-filling the pipeline isn’t an immediate proposition.
- Lastly, even as local demand picked-up, New Zealand being a small market for new cars and one of only a handful of right-hand drive countries across the globe means we only ever receive a tiny portion of the production rate at any time, which is obviously less than usual when it is slowed down.
Compounding all of that is the fact that COVID has not only had an adverse effect on vehicle manufacturers, but also the supply chain that produces critical components and parts to feed the factories. As smaller operations, they are less resilient to major economic impacts and many shut down completely at the height of the crisis, which has created longer-lasting ripple effects.
a back log of orders and wait lists that, in some cases, extend beyond six months
The end result is that dealers have fewer vehicles and more customers coming to them, creating a back log of orders and wait lists that, in some cases, extend beyond six months.
How manufacturers are faring
The New Zealand car market went backwards by almost 25 per cent in 2020 amid the lockdowns and uncertainty created by the COVID pandemic. But a quick recovery looks to be on the cards as sales in the first two months of 2021 have increased by almost double digits compared to the same time last year.
The topsy-turvy supply issue has also seen a few anomalies on the sales charts too. Toyota appears to have consistent stock of its top-selling HiLux ute, but the popular RAV4 SUV is bouncing between a podium position and the bottom of the top 10 month to month depending on supply.
Mitsubishi also looks have good numbers and is making hay with three of the best-selling vehicles in the country last month, the Outlander and ASX SUVs and the Triton ute.
Other top-selling mainstream brands like Mazda, Hyundai and Kia have introduced a raft of all-new models over the last 12 months which naturally creates higher demand. But, in most cases, they have been fortunate enough to have greater flexibility in forward ordering to limit any disruptions.
How to get your new car
None of this is great news if you are in the market to buy a new car now or renew a lease with a newer vehicle, so here’s some handy tips to avoid the waiting lists and find a new car sooner:
1. Plan ahead
With COVID likely to cause an ever-lasting hangover, start planning your next new car now with the consideration that it might be a year-long process. With that in mind, take time to do some research on what new models or upgrades to existing vehicles might be coming to the market in that time. First of all, that will give you a better picture of what might best suit your future needs. Secondly, if there is something new it allows you to be more easily at the front of the queue rather than joining an existing one.
And lastly, planning ahead ensures your next vehicle changeover happens at the right time and limits any operational or cost issues when extending too many leases beyond their original terms.
2. Look at alternatives
If you’re looking for something right now be prepared to wait or look for an alternative model that may have greater supply.
The most popular models in every segment – whether it’s a dual-cab ute like the top-selling Toyota HiLux or Ford Ranger, a family SUV like the Subaru Forester or Hyundai Tucson or a small hatch like the Volkswagen Golf or Mazda 3 – are, naturally, going to be more difficult to have delivered immediately.
But look around at some of the competition and you might be surprised at what you can get sooner for the same amount of money.
3. Take what you can get
The reality is that demand is outstripping supply across the board, so if you had a particular car in mind you might need to compromise on colour choice or trim level in order to get it delivered sooner.
4. Accelerate the transition to electric
Now is also a good time to look ahead and potentially accelerate the inevitable transition to an electric car or a hybrid.
Battery-powered vehicles only make up a fraction of new car sales at the moment, which could mean that more are in stock and available for immediate delivery.
When crunching the numbers, consider the price premium they command in the initial purchasing price is offset by significantly lower running costs due to more affordable servicing schedules and cheaper ‘re-fuelling’ when replenishing the battery with electricity.
5. Ask an expert
Whatever your situation is – whether you’re looking for a new car right now or in the near future – contact SG Fleet / LeasePlan for expert advice.