Where Are People Waiting the Longest to Buy a New Car?


Nobody should envy car shoppers right now. With production shortages ongoing, there’s never anything you want on the lot, and what is there is likely to be grotesquely overpriced.

This has encouraged consumers to wait longer before replacing their current ride, which is statistically likely to be far older than years past. But not everyone has the same level of patience or financial wellbeing, meaning certain parts of the country are seeing longer intervals between cars than others. There are also regional inventory disparities to account for, encouraging analytics firm Growth from Knowledge (GfK) to conduct an investigation into which parts of the United States are waiting for the longest to procure a new automobile. 

The only caveat to the study was that the surveyed customers had to be aware of the global semiconductor shortage, indicating that they were at least partially aware that what’s happening on the market is unusual. GfK found 17,000 of them to ensure a meaningful sample size.

Shared by Automotive News, the survey found that 33 percent of respondents would change their purchasing plans because of the shortage, and half of those said they would sit around indefinitely until the exact vehicle they wanted became available. Income also played a major factor, with households making less money overwhelmingly willing to wait the longest. Meanwhile, 29 percent of those making over $150,000 said they would be willing to wait longer than 12 months for a new car.

Regionally, Midwestern shoppers seemed the most likely to steel themselves for prolonged purchasing delays. Of those surveyed, 43 percent said they would wait over 12 months to get a vehicle of their choosing at the price they wanted.

Northeastern Americans were among the least patient, with only 30 percent willing to wait a full year for a new car.

Growth from Knowledge attributed regional differences to socioeconomics and the unique needs of residents. Though the Midwest was given additional credit due to how deeply intertwined it is with automotive manufacturing.

“That is where the bulk of employee sales are happening, and clearly people who are using an employee discount are much more aware of the chip shortage and better understand the impact,” Julie Kenar, GfK’s senior vice president of mobility consulting, told Automotive News.

From AN:

While it is not as clear why the fewest number of people who would wait over a year were from the Northeast, it likely has to do with a lifestyle difference. Many of those consumers likely did not need cars in the past, but as there is a shift in the number of people moving to the suburbs from major metro areas, they will likely need them now, Kenar said.

Jason Olesnavage, a division manager for Midwest dealership group Fox Motors, said the vehicle shortage has forced his branch to come up with new ways to sell cars, especially because there aren’t enough to fill lots, he said.

While there are different pools of customers willing to change their purchasing plans, he deals with many who will not compromise and will wait for the exact car they want. He said his customers will typically wait the longest periods for newer models of the Ford Bronco, Ford Bronco Sport and electric vehicles.

But waiting for the car you really want isn’t feasible for everyone. Many are simply waiting in the hopes that prices will soon come down. Unfortunately, the industry isn’t signaling that as a priority, even after it sold several million cars than anticipated for two years running.

Automakers have been dumping more affordable models for years and I’m getting worried they’re going to stay the course here. Having grown accustomed to higher-margin products, a lot of companies don’t want to risk playing the volume game with inflation becoming an increasingly relevant factor. Manufacturers are universally expressing concerns about an uptick in production costs and very few are prepping economical options for customers that are likewise feeling the money pinch.

Instead, we’re seeing automakers continue to ax small, affordable products for larger alternatives yielding higher MSRPs and juicier margins. For example, General Motors just decided to eliminate the Chevrolet Spark from its lineup. While unlikely to be anybody’s dream car, it’s a functional runabout that’s ideal for rental fleets or anybody who needs reliable transportation on the cheap. It also happened to be GM’s least-expensive offering and its absence will represent a nearly $7,000 increase in the minimum amount of cash one is required to spend to take home a brand new vehicle from Chevrolet.

Chevy is also said to be readying a larger replacement of the Bolt EV. While the current theory is that it’ll cost slightly less than the vehicle it’s replacing, it’s customary for larger cars using newer hardware to be more expensive. My guess is that GM will champion the new Ultium-based model as costing roughly the same as the Bolt and then bump up the price ahead of launch. But I would absolutely love to be wrong here because the sub $30,000 space needs more products, regardless of whether they’re running on gasoline, diesel, or stored electricity.

[Image: Gretchen Gunda Enger/Shutterstock]

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