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Car dealerships battle against pandemic impacts, parts shortages

TULSA, Okla. — At Bill Knight Ford, Owner and General Manager Bill Knight, says his lot is like night and day compared to the times before the pandemic hit.

“Sometimes you can walk in and find a vehicle that showed up that day, but it is very few and far between,” said Knight. “Normally we would have 400 vehicles on the ground, and we have 8 today.”

Parking spots bake under the sun as the pressure on the global supply chain heats up.

“60 percent of businesses that pay someone else to manufacture their chips are right here in the United States,” explained Theodore Washington, Professor of Supply Chain at Oklahoma State University.

Washington is very familiar with supply chain.

“In addition to teaching at OSU I spent the last decade, plus, working in the supply chain,” Washington explained.

He says the global supply chain was built to be efficient, the product, like a chip, gets ordered, manufactured, unloaded at ports and put onto trucks and on its way to the customer.

Because of the global pandemic, shutdowns, labor shortages and manufacturers closing, he says the last two years the global supply chain has been more like a chain reaction of chaos.

“Over these last two years each time that que gets being built up we have a new disruption, either we are shutting down in the United States or they are shutting down in Asia or we are backed up at the ports like Long Beach, L.A. up and down the west coast we can’t get the product in,” he said.

One chip won’t solve the problem for Bill Knight who says just one Ford F-150 contains nearly 1,700 chips. On some vehicles he says they will buy them without all the chips so some of the functions in the car won’t work at the time.

“Sometimes they are taking some of the more complicated options off and allowing that SUV to be sent to us then we will catch up the functionality of that chip later on,” he said.

Knight says it also means when you can get a car there isn’t much wiggle room on the price.

He says if you want a car now, get online and start the process.

“The people who waited eight months ago, if they come in today, we are still six to eight months away so the most important thing you can do is get on a list and the vehicle you are looking for, build your custom order the way you want it and communicate with the management team,” he said.

He said you can get off the list at any time which means the next person on their lineup moves up and has a chance to buy that vehicle.

Washington says with some Asia countries shutting down and long back orders, people should anchor down and wait it out.

“I believe we are going to need another six months or another year to fully start to recover,” he said.

It could be that long before car lots are full of cars again.

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