Ireland’s new-car buyers will likely to have to remain patient when ordering new vehicles in the early part of 2022, as the global shortage of semiconductor chips continues to eat into global vehicle production.
That shortage of chips has seemingly no immediate end in sight, with some analysts predicting that it will continue into 2022. Globally, car sales have dipped significantly, with the US market reporting its worst second half year since the recession of 2009.
Car dealers, across the board, say that they have more interest from consumers than they have cars to supply.
Even mighty Toyota, which overtook General Motors to the US sales top slot for the first time, has said that it will have to trim its 2022 production expectations – albeit by a mere 300,000 vehicles out of its expected nine-million production total.
The story for Irish buyers, specifically, is mixed. Many car importers and manufacturers have put orders in early, anticipating that customers will be keen to spend this year.
The Society of the Irish Motor Industry has said that it expects big things from the car market this year. "The industry is hopeful that 2022 will see further improvements in business levels. Pre-orders do indicate a strong appetite for new and used cars, providing a positive outlook for our Industry and with a return to pre-pandemic 2019 new car sales levels expected." said its director general, Brian Cooke.
There’s an ineluctable math to this, though. If Irish buyers are returning to dealerships at a time when car production around the world is disrupted, some people are going to end up disappointed.
How disappointed you are likely depends upon which brand you’re buying, and in some cases which individual model you want.
Ford is quoting some especially long delivery times. “We’re looking at approximately four to five months delivery time for most vehicles, in particular most popular models like Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo. A Kuga could be up to six months depending on spec. Passenger models of the van range could be more than six months for the Tourneo Connect and Tourneo Custom. The Ranger pickup could be six to eight months,” said a spokesperson for Ford Ireland.
Hyundai – whose Tucson was the best-selling individual model – is bullishly confident that it will have sufficient supply of new vehicles so that customers won't be left waiting.
"We ordered extremely early, last April for many models, and in large numbers, so we have more stock available as a result than some manufacturers. Equally we tweaked our specification offers for what could be produced early," said Hyundai Ireland's managing director, Stephen Gleeson.
“Realistically for Tucson now we are guiding January or perhaps February if someone is not too specific – “I want model X in colour Y with a roof colour of Z.” Dealers are guiding probably one month extra to allow for possible delays to under promise and over deliver rather than the opposite.
"The only exception to this would be on the Ioniq 5 where the top-spec Premium Plus and the Kona Electric top spec Premium are somewhat delayed due to the chip shortages, but in most other specs we can offer [first quarter] delivery. We do also have delays on i20 and Bayon where we would be guiding March for new orders."
Toyota Ireland, which finished 2021 as the State's biggest-selling car brand, has sounded a more cautious note. Michael Gaynor, Toyota's marketing director in Ireland, told The Irish Times: "We're seeing strong demand from diesel customers from competing brands who are now ready to make the transition to Toyota hybrids, especially in the SUV segment with lead times now out to March and beyond for certain models and grades.
“Supply will continue to be tight for most of 2022 and expectations of a second half supply recovery are slim despite that we might be hearing in the media.”
Toyota’s popular Yaris Cross and RAV4 SUVs are pretty well sold out for January and February, with only a small number left for March delivery at the time of writing. The Corolla and C-HR are sold out for January, while there are a small number of delivery slots for the Yaris.
Renault is rather more upbeat. Jeremy Warnock, group product supply and distribution manager at Renault Ireland told The Irish Times: "On car supply Renault Group is in a good place. Even once our January allocation is gone – or if a customer is looking for a variant we don't have – the wait shouldn't be too long as we have February production slots for March delivery.
"Similarly, Dacia has given Ireland a good allocation of Sandero and Duster. The only proviso is that we normally build our new year stock in September, October and November. This year it's November, December and January, so there may be a slightly longer wait than if you're holding out for a particular colour or trim. The exceptions would be Mégane E-Tech plug-in hybrid and Kadjar, where volumes are now heavily constrained. But we've found a lot of Mégane and Kadjar customers are moving across to the Arkana."
Jeanne McGann, head of marketing and communications for Nissan Ireland said "we've been working hard with Nissan Europe over the past number of months to ensure we have sufficient stock for the 221 period. We are confident that we will be able to fulfil January and February orders in the main."
For premium carmakers, the picture is rather more cloudy, not least because high-end models have more chips in them.
Globally, Tesla has shown that it can, in part at least, circumvent the chip shortage and keep production flowing.
If you want a new Model 3 on a 221-plate in Ireland, you can expect to take delivery of a custom-ordered car in March, although Tesla notes that it has a number of demo models in stock if you want one sooner than that. The roomier Model Y SUV has a rather more vague estimated delivery date of “early 2022” if you order now, but customers wanting the bigger, more luxurious Model S or Model X are going to have to exercise patience. They’re being told: “Pricing and options will be finalised as delivery approaches. [Customers] will be notified to complete an order when final pricing and options are published.”
What about BMW?
A spokesperson for BMW said: "We have reduced or offered alternatives to customers as we have reduced the number of semiconductors in the cars. We are monitoring the situation very closely and are in constant communication with our suppliers in relation to this."
BMW also stated that it's linking up with microchip developer Inova to secure a bespoke supply of chips, but that agreement won't bear fruit for some time yet.
If you want a new Audi, it'll be a 12-week wait. Richard Molloy, head of marketing and product at Audi Ireland, said: "Generally speaking, customers are advised of a 12-week order time for their new Audi, however customers are experiencing elongated delivery times given the situation. The semiconductor issue remains volatile with bottle necks continuing into the first half of 2022. We are working to keep our customers mobile in the event of delayed delivery, for example by extending the terms of their finance agreement."
At Mercedes-Benz Ireland, passenger car sales manager Ciaran Allen said: "Like many in the industry, Mercedes-Benz was affected by the global shortage of semiconductors, with delays being at their highest in the second and third quarters of 2021. We expect the semiconductor issue to continue through the early part of 2022, with improvements coming in the second half of the year when, hopefully, we will return to normal production levels."
The knock-on effect of all of these new car delays and shortages will continue to affect the second-hand car market, with a shortage of stock on forecourts and higher prices being asked.
Conor O’Boyle, from used-car specialists Sweep, said used car numbers have reached a record low level in late November and are now rebounding slightly from that. “Used car stock is still going to be the most challenging aspect for dealers over the next six to nine months until the chip shortage stabilises.”