It's going to be a long summer.
Ford dealerships across America are struggling with what to tell hopeful F-150 customers these days. As everyone knows by now, the semiconductor chip shortage is an outright crisis that's expected to result in the loss of billions of dollars for automakers by the time things are resolved. That's not expected to happen until sometime next year so. In the meantime, the Ford F-150 and many other vehicles are not being assembled at their normal rates.
The Detroit Free Press has confirmed with the Blue Oval that its Dearborn Truck Plant, which builds F-150s, will be down to one shift instead of the normal three next week. Ford has already been stockpiling nearly completed F-150s in massive parking lots outside of Detroit, though they can't be shipped to dealers until they receive their chips.
Those dealers are now being bombarded with calls from anxious customers wanting to know more about F-150 availability.
"My text messages are blowing up," said the co-owner of a multi-brand dealership group that includes Ford and Jeep. "F-150s, all F-Series, all Jeep products. People reach out in the middle of the night. They're calling to make sure this is really happening, is it really a crisis, and I'm explaining, 'Yes it is.' If you find a car in stock and you want to think about it overnight, more than likely you're going to lose the car."
Not surprisingly, consumers are more concerned about availability rather than pricing. They're in no position to negotiate. It's not just the F-150 that's running low on inventory, but also SUVs like the Escape, Explorer, and Expedition.
One dealer admitted it has less than a 10-day supply of everything right now. Typically, there's a 70-80 day supply. But while some Ford customers are literally freaking out, some dealers aren't letting a crisis go to waste. For starters, there's the pricing issue. Customers are paying sticker price right now which translates to better profit margins for dealers. Equally important, dealers are using this opportunity to clear out previously unsold inventory.
New vehicles that were previously tricky to shift, are now selling. This is good news as the longer any vehicle sits on a lot, the more money the dealer loses. Dealers are aware this is going to be a difficult summer but there's nothing they can do about it. Customers also have no choice but to ride out the storm.