Cars, if you’ve been looking for one, you know that they are exceedingly hard to get right now. Yes, we have supply chain problems. And yes, it’s affecting the entire economy. And yes, it’s making it harder and harder and more and more expensive to get a car right now—any car, new or used. So why this is happening, when will the madness end, and how can you get your hands on a car?
Indeed, it was microchips that was first driving all the problems in the car business, and that’s all thanks to the auto industries ‘Just In Time’ production process first pioneered by Toytoa in the 1970s, which traded keeping supplies on hand for a nimble, less inventory intensive process. This works when the supply chain works, but when it doesn’t, factories run out of the smallest and most important component: microchips. Look at it this way, every car needs at the minimum a few dozen chips. These control everything from the stereo and navigation systems screens to stability control and engine management. Those few dozen are a baseline for entry level cars, but luxury, sports, and electric cars with a ton of advanced safety and driver assistance systems may need a 100 or more chips per car. Add it all up, and that’s a few billion chips for the auto industry alone.
When the shutdowns first hit in March 2020, the auto manufactures—with their infinitely short-sighted wisdom—cancelled their orders for chipsets, which then went to other companies who build other things such as computers and small electronics. When the shutdown lifted and car buyers clamored to buy a car, the auto companies—and most of all, their dealers—were left flatfooted without any inventory because there was a lack of stock of parts on hand at the factory.
To make matters worse, some of the car companies had gone ahead and built cars, but without the chips to run them. Those then sat piling up in lots. Then, things got somehow even worst! The auto industry is a global business: chips from China, wire harnesses from the Ukraine, engines from Mexico, and when one part of the gears gets gummed up with shipping delays, wars.. a pandemic—the whole system goes kablooey.
Factories are still messed up. It’s kind of getting better, and should be back to normal, we hear, by the end of 2023, but it’s still bad. How bad, you ask?
In November of 2019, Honda sold 44,235 CRVs that month alone. Through May of 2022, they sold 42,090 in a total over a period of FIVE months. This lack of inventory is creating a boom for the dealers, who are marking up their cars with something called ADM or Additional Dealer Markup, which is that fat number on the window sticker added to the MSRP.
ADM was once reserved for super in-demand cars like the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon or a super-limited Porsche 911. Now it’s on everything from a Honda CRV (a few thousand over MSRP) to the rare-as-hens-teeth new 2023 Range Rover (50K+ over list).
SO HOW DO I GET MY HANDS ON ONE?
Personally, I’m not paying 10K over sticker on a 20K truck no matter how bad I want it, so I am waiting for the order books to open to place an order. In three or four months, hopefully, I’ll have my custom built truck with no markup. So what are you to do if you need a car now?
Joel Feder, Internet Brands Automotive Group’s Interactive Content Manager tells us, “It’s going to sound ironic, being in the business of getting people to buy cars, but unless you have to buy a car, don’t buy a car!… I know that’s not realistic for everyone, but if you can’t wait, my advice is have some patience and look around.” He adds, “Don’t just look local, look nationwide. It costs 1200 bucks or so to ship a car from anywhere in the country and the dealer will do it for you.”
- Don’t get a used car. They are more expensive than something new, especially if you buy an electric and don’t get the tax rebates.
- Do not pay over sticker. If a dealer is greedy, look elsewhere. There are a lot of dealers.
- Don’t look at the hottest and newest cars, look at stuff that is mass market and not as popular. Think non-hybrids and those cars that are not all new for 2023.
- Finally, if you order a car, get the price and the whole deal in writing from the salesman, and if they won’t give you something in writing, find a different dealer.
While it’s hard to get the newest of the new and the top of the line models, there are still some solid rides that should be easier to get. Look at the base models, as opposed to the more tricked-out higher end versions of the same car, which will be both harder to find and much more expensive, even before the dealer markup.The best advice and the best way to save a ton of dough is to do your research.
If you want an SUV, look towards Jeep, which has maintained a steady supply of SUVs. All their SUVs, from the Grand Wagoneer (from $88,640), Wagoneer (from $58,995) and Grand Cherokee (from $38,720) are all in abundant supply at the dealers usually for less than MSRP with a lot of incentives too. I love the ultra-luxe Grand Wagoneer Series III and the $116,720 model I drove recently rivals anything else in the high-end SUV market.
JEEP GRAND WAGONEER (FROM $88,640)
JEEP GRAND WAGONEER SERIES III (FROM $116,720)
JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE (FROM $38,720)
While the high end Rivian, Tesla, Lucid and Porsche Taycan models are hard to find at sticker, look at something that’s been kicking around a little while, like the 2022 Nissan LEAF (from $27,400) and the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt (From $25,600). While they may lack the cool factor of other EVs, you should, with a little searching, find one at a dealer for list price.
NISSAN LEAF (FROM $27,400)
CHEVROLET BOLT (FROM $25,600)
After spending time with the entire KIA line up, I don’t think they’re making a bad car right now, I drove the 2022 Kia Seltos Nightfall Turbo (from $22,840) all-wheel drive model, but I live in LA, where there is no weather to speak of, so I wouldn’t need an all-wheel drive SUV and would opt for the LX (and save five grand too!).
KIA SELTOS NIGHTFALL TURBO (FROM $22,840)
I spent some time in the new 2022 Kia K5 GT (from $23,790) and 2022 Kia Forte GT Sedan (from $19,090) which is one the best cars I have driven in years, but getting one of the GT models, while faster and more tricked-out, would be much tougher and costly, even before dealer markups—at least a few thousand more than the lower rung models.