What if you can’t easily get the car your customer wants?


While things are getting better overall, the auto industry is still plagued with supply-chain issues, and also with the backlog of customer orders it created. So, what do you do if your customer wants a car that you don’t have?

The supply problems may be out of your hands, but you can control how your dealership looks after your customers and helps to guide them through the process. They still won’t be happy about the wait, but if they appreciate how you’re handling it, you can create customers who are loyal to your dealership and will likely return for service and the next vehicles they buy.

Here are some of the ways you can help ease the pain of waiting for that new vehicle to arrive.

Honesty is everything. Be up front, right from the start, about how long they may have to wait. Don’t give them a “we hope” date – tell them what you expect in reality, and then that it could possibly be sooner but that’s the luck of the draw. Most people would rather be told the worst and hope for the best, than the other way around. They’ll appreciate you being transparent about it.

Explain what’s causing the delay. As people gradually go back to the daily routine they had prior to COVID-19, and as other products have returned to store shelves, many may not think there are still lingering effects. Microchips, backlogs, and even vehicle shipping are still playing havoc with inventory. Let customers know that it isn’t just your store or even your brand, but an issue that’s still affecting everyone.

Help your customer cross-shop. If someone is looking at a popular model that’s hard to get, is there something in your lineup that might be available sooner? Try walking them through the same process you would with someone who isn’t sure what to buy and is relying on you to help them decide.

This includes the usual list, such as what the vehicle will be used for: fuel economy, cargo capacity, capability, features, price – you know the drill. If you have something in stock or coming in soon that could be close, guide them to it. A vehicle that’s close to what they want and is available much sooner could be enough to close the deal.

Keep them in the loop. Communicate with your customers frequently as they wait for their ordered vehicle to come in. Even bad news is preferable to hearing nothing and thinking they’re being ignored.

If you get a vehicle in that’s close to fulfilling their needs, as mentioned above, see if they’re interested in looking at it. Even if they’re not, they’ll appreciate that you are keeping them top-of-mind.

Is there anything on the pre-owned lot? Your customer may have ordered a model with a long wait and they’re pinched in the meantime, such as their current car needs too many repairs and isn’t worth fixing. If there’s something on the used-vehicle lot that meets their needs, float the idea of buying that and then trading it back in when their vehicle order is finally fulfilled. With some popular models backordered for a year or more, it could be a viable solution for both your customer and your pre-owned department.

Can you work a dealer trade for the vehicle they want? You’re no doubt already on top of that, and making the arrangements even as we speak. Your customer will be pleased to know you’ve found the vehicle they want, but be sure to let them know it’s coming in from elsewhere, especially if it’s close enough that it’s being driven from another dealership. Customers can often be upset when they receive their “brand-new” vehicle and it has a double-digit odometer reading. The best surprises are “no” surprises.

Sweeten the deal if you can. Adding extras is always appreciated. Once the vehicle arrives after a long wait, if you can throw in a small item or two, such as winter floor mats, a branded key ring or hat, or a bottle or two of washer fluid as a “thank you for sticking with us” can make an impression with your customer. If you have branded items, such as a tire pressure gauge or wheel-lock pouch, pass one along during the waiting period.