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Chip shortage, limited supply has car shoppers traveling distances

June 25, 2021
The economy continues to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the ongoing semiconductor chip shortage, many consumers are traveling far and wide just to get the car they desire. It doesn’t matter whether a vehicle is new or used, dealerships are running on empty. 
Nearly 10% of vehicle shoppers traveled out of state to purchase the ride they wanted, according to a new survey by Cars.com. Of the 12,000 respondents, 56% bought a new vehicle, while 43% bought a used vehicle.
A shortage of computer chips has caused a number of automobile factories to shut down temporarily in recent months, as they can’t finish building new vehicles without adequate parts.  
Those issues have contributed to a spike in used-car prices. With newer vehicles harder to come by, used cars are suddenly a hot commodity. And that means many people are willing to cross state lines to get what they want.
"We’ve seen inventory dive both from a new and used standpoint as the chip shortage really kind of continues to impact the industry," said Kelsey Mays, assistant managing editor at Cars.com.
Domestic auto inventory has steadily decreased over the course of the year, reaching an all-time low, said Bryce Gill, an economist at First Trust Portfolios, an investment management firm. 
Inventory of new vehicles assembled in North America at the beginning of 2021 totaled 396,500. That has dropped to 254,800 units now, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
"People have a specific car that they want, and their local dealership just doesn’t have it in stock," Gill said. "That’s why they search and find a place, you know, 200 miles away that has what they’re looking for."
The distance traveled to get a new vehicle varies, with 51% traveling 25 miles, 20% traveling 50 miles and 13% trekking over 250 miles.
Supply chain issues and labor shortages will continue for the rest of the year and the struggle to keep up with vehicle demand won’t go away overnight. It is like "a bunch of gears turning together," Mays said. 
Even a drive to another state may not be enough for shoppers to get precisely what they want. Car buyers should "be ready to compromise on things like color and specific features," Gill said.
 
 

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