Regarding the volume brands, Citroën, Fiat, Nissan, Renault and Vauxhall appear to have shorter factory-order lead times (three to four months at most). The picture is even better for Hyundai and Kia, whose build times are down to weeks rather than months, a situation that helped Kia post its best-ever September for new car sales, and its third-highest monthly sales of all time in the UK.
Having waited for their cars, buyers might also have to accept lower equipment levels, according to Jay Nagley of Redspy, an automotive consultancy. “Car makers aren’t only cutting production, they’re also reducing equipment levels,” he says. “However, this is very much swimming against the tide. The move to EVs means more chips are required. Research firm ID Tech Ex reckons an EV has 2.3 times as many chips as a petrol-engined car.”
Long waiting times are bad news for car enthusiasts and people who just fancy a change of car, but imagine if you’re a company fleet manager having to explain to disgruntled employees that they can’t have the EVs they’ve been promised and which would reduce their benefit-in-kind tax liability to 1%. “People get really grumpy,” says Paul Hollick, chairman of the Association of Fleet Professionals. “Many fleets that ordered electric cars aren’t able to get them so are having to extend their existing vehicle leases, meaning employees are paying more tax.
“Fleet managers would like to help by sourcing whatever is available, but they can’t compromise on safety or residual values. They also can’t have one employee on the same pay grade getting something different or better than their colleague; it creates equality and HR problems. The industry needs vehicles in the right colours and the right specifications and from the right brands.”
Other people suffering are car rental customers. One chap we spoke to had just booked a Fiat Panda hire car for his annual week-long visit to Italy at Christmas. He was quoted £1200 rather than the usual rate of £400. “I want to rent it, not buy it,” he told the booking clerk. Rates are high because at the height of the pandemic, rental firms found themselves with too much stock, so de-fleeted. Now demand has returned but they find themselves at the back of the queue as manufacturers favour the higher margins they earn supplying the retail and corporate sectors. Talking of margins, one main dealer told us that he no longer supplies Motability, the charity that provides new cars to people qualifying for the mobility allowance, because the profit margin is too low. “I only have a few new cars so am turning down Motability deals, on which typically I make £400, in favour of retail deals, on which I can make £2000,” he said.