Some customers have refrained from paying top dollar for new cars and opted to make do with older vehicles. That has increased the demand for parts and service, one of the most profitable businesses for car dealers. Many dealers have extended repair shop hours. Mr. Ricart said he had a few repair technicians working three or four days in a row of 10 or 12 hour days before taking a few days off.
Of course there will be an end to the shortage of cars, but when is not clear.
As the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths rose last spring, automakers closed factories in North America from late March to mid-May. Because their factories were down and they expected sales to come back slowly, they ordered fewer semiconductors, the cerebellum that power engines, transmissions, touchscreens and many other components of modern cars and trucks.
At the same time, home-bound consumers began purchasing laptops, smartphones, and game consoles, increasing demand for chips from companies making these devices. When automakers restarted their factories, fewer chips were available.
Many automakers had to shut down factories for a week or two in the first half of 2021. GM, Ford Motor and others have also resorted to producing vehicles without certain components and keeping them in factories until the necessary parts arrive. At one point, GM had about 20,000 near-complete vehicles awaiting electronic components. It started shipping them in June.
Ford has been hit harder than many other automakers due to a fire at one of its suppliers’ factories in Japan. At the end of June, Ford had about 162,000 cars at dealerships, less than half the number it had three months ago and about a quarter of the inventory its dealers normally hold.
This month, Ford is delaying production at several North American plants due to the chip shortage. The company said it plans to focus on completing vehicles.
Mr. Ricart recently took a trip on his Harley-Davidson to Louisville, Ky., viewing the trucks and SUVs at a Ford plant waiting to be finished. He said he saw “thousands of trucks in fields surrounded by temporary fences”.