Chip shortage delays: how long will you have to wait for a new car?
Some car models are subject to lengthy delays and others are being down-specced due to the semiconductor computer chip shortage...
When you order a new car from the factory, you normally expect it to take six or maybe even eight weeks to arrive at the dealership. Now, though, that wait has drastically increased for certain brands and models due to a semiconductor computer chip shortage and production problems caused by Covid-19.
New cars can require up to 1400 computer chips to manage various systems, ranging from electric windows to infotainment screens and active driver safety systems.
The shortage of chips stems from the massive drop in car sales and huge increase in demand for computers and other electrical devices in 2020, which diverted production of them away from the automotive sector.
That was compounded by a steep rise in new car sales in late 2020, which caught car makers by surprise and left many without enough chips to keep up with demand for cars.
Although manufacturers say they’re doing all they can to minimise the delay in delivering new cars to customers, What Car?’s research has revealed that some buyers could wait up to a year for their new vehicle.
We asked dealers to tell us how long we should expect to wait for five models that topped their classes in the 2021 What Car? Car of the Year Awards.
Tesla and Toyota dealers told us we could get a new Model 3 and Yaris hybrid in four to six weeks, but Skoda and Volkswagen dealers quoted wait times of 18 to 19 weeks for an ID.3 and an Octavia Estate plug-in hybrid (PHEV). A BMW dealer said January 2022 was the earliest they would expect to be able to get us an X5 PHEV.
As well as contacting showrooms about specific models and trim levels, we also gathered more general information on delivery times. The average was between four and six months, but it was up to 12 months for some Jaguar and Land Rover models.
Some car makers are even sacrificing safety and convenience features on new cars in order to keep production lines running. For example, two new trim levels of the Ford Puma have been introduced that use fewer chips.
The Titanium Design trim misses out on climate control, voice control and Bluetooth, and has a downgraded version of Ford’s SYNC infotainment system. Meanwhile, the ST-Line Design goes without high beam assistance, rear parking sensors, lane-keeping assistance, lane-departure warning, pre-collision assistance with automatic emergency braking (AEB), pedestrian and cyclist detection, and post-collision braking.
The Design models are £900 and £1550 cheaper than the regular Titanium and ST-Line cars, and a Ford spokesperson has stated that their reduced reliance on chips gives customers the choice of receiving their cars sooner.
The removal of AEB and lane-keeping assistance means these versions of the Puma don’t receive the full five-star Euro NCAP safety rating that other versions do.
Volvo has also scaled back on the features of its Driver Awareness Pack on the XC60 due to the semiconductor shortage, but their removal doesn’t affect the model’s Euro NCAP rating. Volvo is contacting customers who’ve specified the pack to ask if they want to continue with their orders without the equipment, or wait until the kit becomes available.
What the car brands say about the chip shortage
A number of car makers were able to give us average lead times per brand. Here’s our round-up by brand or manufacturer group:
Alfa Romeo / Fiat / Jeep
Alfa Romeo buyers can expect to wait up to four months for new cars, although this estimate includes the GTA, which is a special model that’s hand built to order.
Meanwhile, customer wait times are four to six weeks for the Abarth range, up to six weeks for Fiat models and up to eight weeks for Jeep vehicles.
This group is more optimistic about delivery times than the dealership we spoke to, quoting lead times in excess of 16 weeks for BMW models and 13 to 16 weeks for Mini models.
“The BMW Group was largely able to compensate for the challenging semiconductor supply problems arising in the first six months of 2021,” said a spokesperson. “However, we expect the supply situation for semiconductor components to remain difficult and that production restrictions will continue in the second half of the year.”
A Ford spokesperson said: “As a result of the semiconductor supply issue affecting much of the global auto industry, we have been taking key actions.
"We are closely monitoring the situation and adjusting production schedules where needed to minimise the effect on our employees, suppliers, customers and dealers across Europe. Customer-sold vehicle orders will be prioritised, and we are working to improve the situation as quickly as possible."
This car maker says it is not currently being significantly affected by the chip shortage because “we secured good supply last year and therefore have access to around 9000 brand-new cars so our dealers are in a good place”.
Like many other brands, Hyundai is monitoring the situation. A representative said it was “optimising the production in line with supply conditions and taking necessary measures such as adjusting production schedules".
“We are also bolstering our component inventory by expanding the application of locally-produced components, diversifying our supply chain through cooperation with various semiconductor partners, managing inventory pre-emptively and seeking alternative chip parts,” they added.
"We continue to see strong customer demand for our range of vehicles, and we are working closely with affected suppliers to resolve the issues and minimise the impact on customer orders wherever possible,” a representative told us.
Stock availability has held up well during the past 18 months, according to Mazda, and it has not experienced any significant impact to UK sales as yet.
A spokesperson added: “Going into the next few months, production challenges caused partly by the ongoing global shortage in supply of semiconductors mean that it might take a little longer than usual to receive specific grades, colours and transmissions of some of our cars.”
It quotes a maximum 12 to 16 week lead time for the Mazda 3, 6, MX-5 and CX-30, but says production of the pure electric MX-30 has not been affected.
“At Mercedes-Benz Cars UK, the majority of new vehicles are purchased by customers from our existing stock and online showroom, and stock allocation is being flexibly managed by retailers, to minimise customer waiting times, wherever possible,” states a spokesperson.
However, they added: “The timing of customer deliveries is strongly dependent on the individual equipment and the short-term availability of parts.”
The car maker said: “A global shortage of semiconductors has affected parts procurement in the auto sector. Due to the shortage, Nissan is adjusting production and taking necessary actions to ensure recovery. We continue to work closely with our supplier partners to assess the impact on our supply chain and production, and minimise inconvenience for our customers.”
Porsche told us that it is closely monitoring the situation and reassessing it every day. It stated: “Since we are aware of this shortage, we have been working continuously and with high pressure in cooperation with the Volkswagen Group to keep restrictions as low as possible and to minimise the effects and possible delays.”
It estimates that the impact over the year will be a reduction of around 200,000 vehicles.
Suzuki has good availability for delivery within the third quarter of 2021, but it’s starting to quote fourth quarter delivery for a small number of models in specific colours, including SZ5 trim levels of some Ignis and Vitara models. However, it will guarantee current pricing for any models that cannot be delivered by 30 September.
The American electric car specialist isn’t currently experiencing delays in delivery.
We were told there was a temporary suspension of production of the Aygo in August, but this has now restarted, and that no other European plants have been affected.
A spokesperson stated: “The Volkswagen Group’s task force has been working intensely to minimise the effects of the semiconductor bottleneck. Despite the chip shortage, the Group was actually able to deliver more cars in the first half of 2021 than in the same period of the previous year: the VW Passenger Cars brand delivered half a million vehicles, and Audi recorded the best half-year in its history.
“New outbreaks of Covid-19 in Asia, for example in Malaysia and Taiwan, are leading to renewed shuttering of key semiconductor manufacturing facilities. We therefore expect the supply of chips to remain very volatile and strained in the third quarter of 2021, but that the supply crisis will bottom out after this time. Further adjustments to production cannot be ruled out, but we expect to see an improvement in the supply of semiconductors by the end of the year.”
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