Soaring US Car Prices Force Buyers to Travel Thousands of Miles in Search of Deals | Inflation

After a car dealer demanded $10,000 in excess of the recommended retail price for a new hybrid vehicle, car buyer Michael Ruthien of Kirkland, Washington decided to pay no more than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for his chosen vehicle. He never imagined that his search would take him eight months and 3,000 miles from home.

“I call all over the country. I don’t think it will be possible. I’m not looking for a MSRP dealer,” recalls Ratjen, a technical writer. “I kept calling farther and farther until I got to Vermont.”

In early May, Ruthien flew to Burlington, Vermont to pick up his new Toyota RAV4 Prime, paid $51,000 for a fully equipped premium model, then immediately turned around and drove it cross-country to bring it home. The trip took eight days with several stops to see the sights and friends.

Near-record low inventory levels, supply chain backups and production delays do not fully reflect the monumental challenge faced by consumers looking to buy a hot new car, light truck or SUV without being duped by speculative dealers. Determined buyers who want to pay the highest price in today’s market must rely on a store of perseverance and patience, and in some cases travel hundreds or even thousands of miles. However, buyers like Ratjen are happy to do so. “I was very lucky to get exactly what I wanted and at the suggested retail price,” he said.

This is the state of the modern automotive market.

Ryan Denecker, Director of Sales, Heritage Automotive Group. Photograph: Ryan Deneker

“Right now, if it’s the right car, there’s no limit to how far people can go,” said Ryan Denecker, director of sales for Heritage Automotive Group, which operates Toyota and Ford dealerships in Burlington and maintains its car-for-gold policy. below sticker price. His dealership sold to buyers from all over the country.

Heritage Automotive typically has between 500 and 700 vehicles available for sale, Denecker said, with listings full of cars, SUVs and light trucks. Today, the lots are nearly empty and buyers must pay a deposit and wait between two and 12 months for their car to arrive.

“I’ve been doing this since the late 90s,” Denecker said. “This landscape I’ve never seen before.”

It’s a landscape battered by the perfect storm that squeezes supply at a time of high demand.

The Covid-19 shutdowns two years ago put a brake on the auto supply chain, a slowdown from which the industry has been unable to recover. Demand for semiconductor chips for today’s highly digital cars still far outstrips supply, a situation exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The beleaguered country is a major supplier of the neon needed for lasers that cut tiny bits of silicon to create semiconductor chips, and is also a leading manufacturer of wiring harnesses needed to tie cables in vehicles. Labor shortages in US factories and ports…

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