Currently reading: Just how long will you have to wait for a new car?
With dealers carrying only minimal stock, customers are having to wait up to a year for delivery of a new build
John Evans
News
8 mins read
24 October 2021

If you want a new Audi A3, you will be waiting until 2022 – and right now, dealers can’t say exactly when in the year. At least their opposites at Jaguar know precisely how long you will have to wait for a new I-Pace: 12 months.

New car delivery times are a familiar issue at the moment, with their roots in the Covid-19 pandemic; a global semiconductor shortage as manufacturers divert supplies to consumer electronics; a winter storm in Texas; runaway consumer demand; reductions in passenger flights (they carry a lot of cargo); and container ship challenges (the Ever Given that blocked the Suez Canal in March seriously disrupted schedules).

We’re talking about delivery times again because occasionally a reader contacts us in a stew about them, reminding us once again that big economic stories have a human dimension.

“I ordered a new Mazda CX-5 2.5 GT Sport AWD six weeks ago, with a confirmed delivery date of 28 October,” wrote Terry Osborn. “Then, recently, the dealership rang to tell me my order had been cancelled by Mazda but that I could instead have the updated version that would arrive next March. Although they would sell me it for the same price, they couldn’t say how it would differ from the car I ordered. For this reason, I cancelled my order.”

A Mazda spokesman told Autocar: “This month, we shifted our CX-5 production to the new model. We prioritised existing customer orders for the current model, but a small number of customers were impacted, and we advised dealers to offer them a switch to the new model. The number of CX-5 orders affected is around 80 cars.”

Pleasingly, Terry’s story has a happy ending, since he has managed to purchase a new Volvo XC40 for delivery in mid-October. “I got a terrific deal and also made a profit on my part-exchange, an Audi S3 – only the second car I’ve achieved that with,” he told us later.

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This sudden improvement in Terry’s fortunes prompted us to do a quick ring-around of local dealers to find out if car buyers and the media are exaggerating the problem of delivery delays a little bit. The bad news is that, for the most part, they aren’t. The good news is that, like Terry, you might find the occasional unsold new car looking for a home.

In just one mid-size town, we stumbled across a few precious unsold motors, as well as some new ones that could be delivered in the next month or so. Confirming this impression, our trade sources report that dealer stocks do exist but vary hugely in number across the country, and not all specifications are represented. Not surprisingly, large dealer groups offer the best pickings across most brands. Otherwise, if it’s not in stock, dealers were clear that even if you will take the entry-level version in doom blue, you will still have to join the queue.

At manufacturer level, the picture is, naturally, equally mixed. For example, trade sources report that Jaguar Land Rover is fast running out of build capacity, with Defender ordering for 2022 builds now closed. Mercedes-Benz is believed to be suspending factory orders on some models too. Audi isn’t building any cars for stock and has average delivery times of six to nine months. On some models, Volkswagen is quoting delivery times extending into October 2022 – that’s right, 12 months away. They include the Golf GTI and R, Touareg and ID 4, and selected R-Line Golfs, Tiguans and Tourans.

However, our sources say that BMW can deliver slightly quicker (subject to model and specification) and Volvo can build and deliver a car in around three months. Hybrids are more likely to be delivered in this time frame because, our sources say, the company is keen to increase its EV and hybrid registrations to avoid emissions-based fines.

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Regarding the volume brands, Citroën, Fiat, Nissan, Renault and Vauxhall appear to have shorter factory-order lead times (three to four months at most). The picture is even better for Hyundai and Kia, whose build times are down to weeks rather than months, a situation that helped Hyundai and Kia post their best-ever September for new car sales.

Having waited for their cars, buyers might also have to accept lower equipment levels, according to Jay Nagley of Redspy, an automotive consultancy. “Car makers aren’t only cutting production, they’re also reducing equipment levels,” he says. “However, this is very much swimming against the tide. The move to EVs means more chips are required. Research firm ID Tech Ex reckons an EV has 2.3 times as many chips as a petrol-engined car.”

Long waiting times are bad news for car enthusiasts and people who just fancy a change of car, but imagine if you’re a company fleet manager having to explain to disgruntled employees that they can’t have the EVs they’ve been promised and which would reduce their benefit-in-kind tax liability to 1%. “People get really grumpy,” says Paul Hollick, chairman of the Association of Fleet Professionals. “Many fleets that ordered electric cars aren’t able to get them so are having to extend their existing vehicle leases, meaning employees are paying more tax.

“Fleet managers would like to help by sourcing whatever is available, but they can’t compromise on safety or residual values. They also can’t have one employee on the same pay grade getting something different or better than their colleague; it creates equality and HR problems. The industry needs vehicles in the right colours and the right specifications and from the right brands.”

Other people suffering are car rental customers. One chap we spoke to had just booked a Fiat Panda hire car for his annual week-long visit to Italy at Christmas. He was quoted £1200 rather than the usual rate of £400. “I want to rent it, not buy it,” he told the booking clerk. Rates are high because at the height of the pandemic, rental firms found themselves with too much stock, so de-fleeted. Now demand has returned but they find themselves at the back of the queue as manufacturers favour the higher margins they earn supplying the retail and corporate sectors. Talking of margins, one main dealer told us that he no longer supplies Motability, the charity that provides new cars to people qualifying for the mobility allowance, because the profit margin is too low. “I only have a few new cars so am turning down Motability deals, on which typically I make £400, in favour of retail deals, on which I can make £2000,” he said.

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IHS Markit, a research company, has slashed its vehicle production forecast for 2021 by 6.2%, or 5.02 million cars and trucks, and lowered its projection for next year by 9.3%, or 8.45 million.

So no, car buyers and the media certainly aren’t exaggerating the new car delivery issue. It’s real, and it’s not about to get better any time soon.

What about discounts?

Natrually, the discounts that are available on in-stock cars are lower than they were before the delivery crisis; but unless the car in question is a sought- after model, they’re by no means impossible to achieve, especially when negotiated in person at the dealership.

Our trade source reports that the size of the discounts being offered varies between dealers. Some are operating a tight sales process that will severely test consumers’ haggling resolve, while others are keen simply to get deals done. In general, Hyundai and Kia have better stock levels and new supplies coming within weeks, rather than months. As a result, discounts on their models remain above average.

Whether the car is from stock or a factory order, our source’s advice is to hold out for the same discount: “Many dealers have a very short-term view and unless stock is super-desirable, they will be inclined to sell it for as much as they can get away with and hope something else turns upthat they can sell.”

What dealers told us

We told some local dealers that we would like a new car for December and could be flexible on colour and specification. Here’s what they told us.

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Audi: “Being flexible on colour and specification won’t make a difference to new A3 delivery times. The earliest delivery will be 2022, but I’m not exactly sure when in the year. There’s nothing available from stock.” Our trade source adds that the A5, A6 and A7 are more widely available from stock.

BMW: “The 1 Series is on factory order only for March delivery, although that’s a rough estimate. We used to swap between other dealers to get the cars we need but, because we have limited stock, we can’t any longer.” Our trade source adds that 3 Series and 4 Series are more widely available from stock.

Dacia: “It’s a six-month wait on the Sandero, and everything is a factory order. The whole network is the same, so there’s no point trying elsewhere.”

Fiat: “We’ve a good selection of 500s to choose from in stock now.” Our trade source confirms that one major dealer group is pre-registering 70- and 71-reg petrol-engined 500s for immediate sale.

Ford: “You won’t get a new Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost ST-Line Edition to your specification until March. There’s no unsold Fiesta stock across the UK, either, so we can’t do a trade with another dealer.” Our trade source adds that one major Ford dealer group has just 80 cars in group stock, compared with 450 normally.

Jaguar: “The I-Pace and XE are on 12 months’ delivery. The only way to get a new car is to pay a deposit and stand in line.”

Mazda: “MX-5 delivery is hard to predict – maybe early next year, but we have no date. There’s nothing in stock. As for the CX-5, if people don’t order now, they won’t be around when the updated model lands in March.”

Mercedes-Benz: “The A-Class is on eight- to 10-month factory order, but we can supply a limited number of pre-order models now for delivery in late November.”

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Mini: “You can have a Mini hatchback delivered from mid-January in any specification or colour of your choice. We have no stock from which to supply now.” Our trade source confirms that Mini stock is extremely limited across the country.

Renault: “We have unsold Clios and there are 1000 more arriving in the UK in November. They haven’t been built to order and are for general sale.”

Suzuki: “I have 10 assorted new cars in stock, so if you can be flexible on specification and colour, we can supply. Otherwise, you will have to wait until next year.”

Toyota: “There are no stocks of new Corollas, so we can’t help. Instead, I can get you a new one for January delivery. If you will consider used, we can supply right now.”

Vauxhall: “If you can be flexible on colour, we can get you a new Corsa 1.2 SRi now. Alternatively, you can have any Corsa you want from October. The Corsa-e SRi is also available in limited numbers from stock, and we will have more colours from November.”

Volkswagen: “We can do a new ID 3 for March delivery or a Golf 1.5 TSI Life DSG immediately. Volkswagen [UK] head office has released some from its employee allocation and directed them to retail.”

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Khrmstitanic 12 November 2021

All I can say is what a load of trash saying Hyundai/Kia is a wait of weeks not months! I have been waiting 2 months for my car to even enter production! I know of some people waiting over 6 months since ordering and their car isn't even in production yet either!

CanAmSteve 24 October 2021

While this story focuses on the consumer experience, the blood must be filling the gutters at many of these car manufactuers. It was hard enough to make a profit in the oversupplied market previously - now those slim profits are gone and the all-so-important cashflow with it.Why use your precious chips in some slim-margin econobox? We see Ford and GM in the US shifting production to the big-seller/big-profit pickup trucks. And it is not unlikley that similar moves will be made by others. But while chasing the richer car buyers may work for Audi/BMW/Mercedes/JLR, it's hard to see it working well for the mainstream marques. I predict a big shakeout with fewer lines available. And this will only hasten the move to simpler electric vehicles. Let's see where they are built - cue more unelmployed European car workers

thesecretdriver 24 October 2021

Just try to order a new camper van or motorhome. You'll be dreaming of those lead times!