Not Much in the Field: Ohio Valley Auto Dealers Face Inventory Shortage | News, Sports, Jobs

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Photo by Nora Edinger Many on an odometer may have signaled the need to buy a new car in the past. Given COVID’s shortage of new vehicles for sale and rising used vehicle prices, auto experts in the region say many drivers are keeping their current trips – or finding new ways to shop .

WHEELING – A survey of a local car dealership, repair center and insurance company clearly shows one thing: Cars are until 2021 what toilet paper was until 2020. Supplies are scarce. Some prices are going up. And people hold on to what they have.

Here is an overview of the evolution of the international car shortage in the Wheeling area.

EMPTY LAND, BUSY INTERNET

“Looks like we don’t have cars, but we’re still selling,” said David Chambers, sales associate at Jim Robinson Toyota near the Highlands.

Chambers said a supply chain entanglement caused by COVID that drastically reduced inventories of new cars and caused used car prices to soar has sparked a new kind of market locally.

“We sell them before they hit the ground,” Chambers explained.

He said some customers buy inventory online and put in money before they even see the car in question. This includes customers in Florida, Alabama and other remote states, he noted, adding that he sold a Toyota Tundra to a man in Buffalo, NY in early October.

Chambers said other customers who want a specific new car that is currently not available in the region are placing orders and lining up for a vehicle that can take up to 12 weeks to secure.

“People will call and give us a general idea (of what they want) and leave a deposit,” he said.

In a related twist, if anyone wants to try something that is not available in the field, it’s just a matter of trying the most similar car available, he added.

“We’re still selling cars and we’re still hitting numbers that we’re supposed to be hitting,” Chambers said. “We’re just doing it in a different way.”

This situational adaptability sometimes extends to the second-hand market, he added. If customers can’t find a new vehicle, but need it immediately for some reason, he said some opt for used models even though the prices are significantly higher than normal.

“Every situation is different,” he said of some buyers’ need for speed.

That said, he acknowledged that other buyers were holding back.

“A lot of people keep their vehicles longer because they don’t know what’s going on (now) and what’s going to happen (later),” Chambers said.

Tom Paree, owner of Paree Insurance Centers in Wheeling, Moundsville and St. Clairsville, noted that dealers are in the same oddly tipping boat. He said the agency maintains inventory for two regional dealerships and both have adjusted their coverage in the past 60 days.

“Why pay $ 4 million in coverage if you only have $ 2.5 million in the field?” Parée explained.

ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY

In another turn of the car shortage and related insurance issues, a local company that repairs cars damaged in crashes said their owners might be surprised.

“You see cars that would have totaled (in the recent past) that don’t total – especially with trucks,” said Spencer McKim, general manager of Elm Grove Collision Center.

The value of used vehicles is rising so rapidly – and is tracked by insurance companies who ultimately authorize and pay for repairs – that even major issues like a damaged frame are resolved rather than totaling the vehicle. for money, McKim said. .

In West Virginia, he noted, a vehicle is typically totaled – by law – if the cost of repairs exceeds 75% of the vehicle’s value. But, with prices so high, he said even older cars end up getting fixed in many cases.

On the one hand, it can be just as well, given the reality of the market, he added.

“Maybe someone can’t afford or even find a car to replace it,” McKim said.

But the flip side is that the drive to repair rather than total is causing another shortage – this time, of used parts, he said. Because the parts needed to repair damaged vehicles are often out of production, he said collision repair centers rely on a mix of used and aftermarket parts that are inspected for integrity and reliability. quality.

“Demand exceeds actual inventory,” McKim said. And that both raises the price of parts and puts insurance companies and their customers in an unusual situation. At the same time, repairs are slowing down due to a lack of parts, he said, as rental cars are increasingly difficult to find given the general shortage of cars.

He said insurance companies, which sometimes foot the bill for 30 days or more of expensive rental vehicles, are starting to negotiate with customers and his center is moving to two-step repairs to help reduce delays.

If a missing part is cosmetic – like a hubcap – the center returns the vehicle to the customer with a commitment to complete the repair as soon as the part is available, he said. But, it doesn’t work if what’s missing is a door or something as critical.

In early October, McKim said repair work at his center was already scheduled until Thanksgiving due to delays – and he knows more cars will inevitably join the queue. “Life is coming. People will have accidents and vehicles will be towed here for repair. ”

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