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Auto sales industry continues to navigate pandemic climate

Bob Allen Ford
Posted at 6:03 AM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 07:03:46-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Buying a car is a big decision, whether it’s new or pre-owned.

The industry continues to confront speed bumps as they deal with the effects of the pandemic.

Tori Encapera hadn’t purchased a new car in eight years, until she walked into Bob Allen Ford in Overland Park, ready to buy a new Ford Maverick.

“Having been working from home for a long enough time and not really commuting as much, I figured now as good a time as ever.”

She’s not alone.

Working from home has changed the landscape of auto sales since the pandemic began.

“The people that aren’t driving are the people issued a company car that had another car laying around not driving as much, are selling those cars back to the dealership so we have some ability to restock our inventory with consumer purchases based on the lack of driving they’re doing as a result of working from home," said general manager Scott Miller of Bob Allen Ford.

He said inventory is still a challenge and stocking the lot requires a daily search because new cars are scarce.

“New cars are tough. Ford’s done a really good job of getting order banks built for customers to do direct orders, but it’s still tough to come by. The production lines are way down from what they used to be. Normally we have 150-200 cars in stock, we have 25. That’s a pretty good indicator for how hard it is to come by on the new car side," Miller explained.

That ordering process affects buyers like Encapera, whose Maverick isn’t available just yet.

“The new procedure with Ford of not being able to stock things, it sounds like from a manufacturing side they want to make sure there’s another person on the other end waiting," she said.

As for the used car market, that’s also difficult terrain to navigate.

“Those customers might trade every two to three years, those people have to hang on to their car because there’s nothing for them to trade into, so they’re driving them a little longer, putting more miles on them before they’re ready to dispose of them. So most used cars are 60,000, 70,000 miles instead of 20 or 30 (thousand)," Miller said.

He and his team are spending more on used cars to recondition them and encourage customers to buy pre-owned.

Even with a different buying climate, cars are still coming off the line, and drivers are trading them in.

“If you look at the trade, you look at the price, you look at the financing, all the things we can arrange, all three combined, it’s just as good a time to buy a car as any other time," Miller said.

He told KSHB 41 that he is optimistic the fourth quarter of 2021 will provide a lift for his dealership.