Local car dealerships could see boost in inventory as manufacturers resume production

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Big-name auto manufacturers will resume production after a stall due to a chip shortage, and it could mean more inventory arriving at dealerships in the Tri-Cities.

Along the Motor Mile in Johnson City, lots are lacking their usual inventory, and it’s been a noticeable difference for months.

“Everybody who drives by thinks we’re going out of business because our inventory is so far down; it’s at our lowest point in the almost 15 years we’ve been in business,” said the owner and vice president of Champion Chevrolet, Andy Dietrich.

While inventory is at an all-time low, Dietrich said that doesn’t mean it has stopped coming in. Dietrich told News Channel 11 that inventory has been coming in, but those cars are being sold before they even hit the lot due to the high demand. So, on the back end, the lot itself is not actually being replenished.

He said he has high hopes that production and the auto market stabilize by the middle of next year. Dietrich said his latest call with Chevrolet is good news as we approach the holiday season.

“They’re saying for fourth quarter this year, they’re going to build 100,000 more units than third quarter, so things are looking up for the first time since March; this coming week, all plants will be reopened,” said Dietrich.

To put into perspective the changes they’ve experienced on the lot, Dietrich said as far as used vehicles, they currently have roughly 200 available whereas they were used to anywhere from 500 to 600 used vehicles pre-pandemic.

With production resuming and the chip shortage still very present, Jesse Kennedy, the operations director at Chaparral Buick GMC said he was told by GMC officials he communicates with weekly that there will be some changes to production in order to get cars back on lots.

Changes include cuts to some minor aspects of newer vehicles people have grown used to when shopping for a new car — features such as additional charger ports, seat warmers and sliding rear back glass, according to Kennedy.

“A lot of the 2021 models are going to be released as 2022 limited edition, and it’s going to have limited options on it,” said Kennedy.

With the cutbacks also come a cut back on price. Kennedy said these limited edition models won’t be nearly as costly considering the removed features.

He thinks it could be years until the market returns back to what’s considered normal but also believes the pandemic has forever changed the future of auto sales.

“We’ll probably go into more of a special order situation where you come in when you want a new vehicle and select a new vehicle that you’re not able to get in and drive, but you’re able to pick out what options you want and then they’ll build that vehicle for you,” said Kennedy. “I foresee that as something that will happen pretty regularly in the near future.”

While dealerships await the arrival of new vehicles, used vehicles are hot right now. Dietrich said they buy up to five to six used cars a week, which is a significant increase compared to pre-pandemic purchases.

For smaller auto sales companies who solely buy and sell used vehicles like Rocky Top Motors, they said business hasn’t really been disrupted.

In fact, Rocky Top Motors Owner Frankie Brian said they have a few more cars on the lot than usual right now. He said while they’re paying more to buy these used cars, it’s nothing compared to the price of a new vehicle.

Overall, Brian suggests used vehicles are the best option when it comes to both buying and selling.

“It just comes down to how much people want to pay for their vehicle,” he said. “Used cars have always been a much better investment than a new car. With the money you lose as soon as you drive off the lot with a new car, you don’t see than near as much with a used car.”

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