Local dealers having trouble finding pickups

Empty spaces like these at Robbins Motors Company in Newton are becoming more common on dealership lots, as the production of new pickup trucks has slowed to a trickle.

By Blake Spurney

NEWTON—A lack of computer chips has led to a global shortage of full-size pickup trucks, which has left local dealers scrambling to keep up with demand.

Brandon Schill, general manager at Conklin Cars, said he hadn’t turned away any customers just yet, but it’s getting harder to locate a particular vehicle or to make a trade.

“Typically, we have four times the amount of trucks we have in stock than at the moment, if not more,” he said.

Conklin Cars had just eight trucks in stock as of late last week.

Aaron Robbins, general manager of Robbins Motors Company, said he was lucky in that he ordered a bunch of vehicles in October 2019 after his family bought the dealership from Ted and Wayne Resnik. He said he could still get Chrysler products, but General Motors products are harder to find.

Robbins said the shortage had sent the prices on slightly used trucks skyrocketing. He quit buying used trucks at auction, because the prices for those that have low mileage and are still under warranty now cost more than new trucks. The book value has jumped between $8,000 and $10,000.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 25 years in car sales,” he said.

Robbins said he didn’t want to bury customers with a negative equity in their new truck after the book value went back down. He’s been fielding calls from all over the nation from dealers wanting a particular model that is on his lot. He said the dealership had four used pickups available, when normally it had 20.

“The GMs and Chevys are bringing in the most money and are the hardest to get for lack of supply,” he said.

GM went on strike for three months in 2019, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, shutting down production for another three months. The shortage of computer chips has left Ford and Stellantis, parent of Chrysler, unable to deliver completed trucks. New vehicles have between 50 and 100 chips. Ford announced that it started building F-150s with a reduced number of chips.

Schill said some of the safety technology, such as automatic-emergency braking and blind-spot sensors, was lacking on some newer models.

“Anything that’s safety related, you really can’t order right now because it requires more chips,” he said.

Schill said the pandemic increased demand for full-size trucks as more people bought campers and recreational vehicles. Since the pandemic scotched travel plans, people are wanting to spend time outside, and they need trucks to tow their campers.

Robbins said customers came from all over looking for a particular truck that they found through the Internet. He’s run out of heavy-duty box beds.

“As long as you have it on the lot, they’re going to find it,” he said.

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