A Perfect Storm Is Sending the Auto Market Toward a Pickup Shortage

Dealer lots are full of cars, but trucks are still selling like hotcakes

2020 Chevrolet Silverado RST pickup truck
If car facotires stay closed, you won't be seeing Chevy Silverados on dealer lots for long.
By Alex Lauer / May 5, 2020 1:00 pm

The news about turmoil in the automotive industry during the pandemic is all true. Dealer lots are full as potential buyers delay purchases of new cars and SUVs, factories in the U.S. are scrambling to figure out a plan to reopen and financial losses are beginning to take their toll.

However, the pickup truck — the vehicle that has already buoyed the industry for years pre-coronavirus, due to its rising popularity and greater financial return for automakers — has stayed remarkably strong in the market. In fact, as Automotive News reported, a perfect storm of consumer habits and coronavirus reactions may soon lead to a shortage of pickups in the U.S.

“The pipeline is very dry,” Mike Maroone, CEO of Maroone USA dealerships, told Automotive News. The handful of car dealers across the U.S. interviewed by the outlet relayed similar worries.

But why are people still buying pickups? And how did we get to a dry pipeline so fast? There are a few reasons.

First, in response to the economic downturn from COVID-19 fallout, GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler began to offer seven-year, no-interest loans in March, which Automotive News cites as a reason pickup truck sales have kept on. And while replenishing inventory is obviously difficult due to factory shutdowns, it’s made even harder both because the industry is still recovering from last year’s United Auto Workers strike and because of changing consumer preferences, in which drivers aren’t willing to settle for what is available on dealer lots.

“I tell customers every day, ‘Mr. Customer, I know you want a blue truck with tan interior and this stereo and that screen and a certain type of roof and wheels. It doesn’t exist. So you either need to make some compromises on what you want, or let’s order one from the factory,’” Steve Wolf, a dealer in Houston, told Automotive News.

Unfortunately, with factories closed and backlogs building up every day, that order will be delayed indefinitely. 

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