Most of the economy is reeling from the effects of Covid 19. Buyers are staying home, and discretionary spending is at an all-time low. Auto sales have fallen sharply starting in April and are off about fifty percent nationwide. In normal times, that would lead to a glut of inventory and panicking manufacturers and in many areas, and for some brands, that’s true. But for some automakers that potential glut was offset by something more critical. When the scope of the pandemic became clearer and the risk to the factory workers in the tight confines of an auto assembly line became impossible to ignore, auto plants started closing.
For the end of March, and the beginning of April, while the US economy was at a standstill, that didn’t have tremendous repercussions. But now that most states have loosened restrictions on retail, and most are allowing auto dealers to start selling again (many by appointment only), auto sales are starting to ramp up. Some of the pent-up demand is starting to show and shortages are appearing on many brands on more popular models. For the Subaru brand, it’s happening with almost every model.
According to an auto industry expert, “Subaru was having a difficult time satisfying demand before the shutdowns. They’ve been producing cars as fast as they could, and demand has been outpacing supply for a few years now. So when the shutdowns started, and most brands had excess inventory at the plants, in storage yards and at dealerships to fall back on, Subaru had none of that.
“Subaru’s success streak of the last few years means that they had inventory issues to start with, and once the shutdown happened, it was really a shock to the entire system. It will take months, or possibly even years to get that production back”
We spot-checked inventory around New England and found levels to be at or near the lowest they’ve been in years. Many popular models are sold out completely and waiting lists are starting at many Subaru dealerships. Surprisingly, there was one dealership, Premier Subaru in rural Branford Connecticut whose sizeable Subaru inventory was a stark contrast to nearly every other dealer.
We spoke with Robert Alvine, the dealership’s owner.
“We just finished building an entirely new Subaru facility at our Branford location. It took years to plan and build, and one of the ways the factory rewards dealers for the effort and expense of building a new dealership is by giving them hundreds of additional cars to sell once they open. Although the pandemic has been terrible for everyone, at least our timing was prescient. We had just opened; our grand opening party was exactly two weeks before the state was shut down. While normally that timing would have been disastrous, in our case it worked in our favor. We were allocated hundreds of hard to find Subaru models just before the factory closed down. So while nearly everyone else is having a difficult time with Subaru inventory, we have nearly four hundred new Subarus in stock. We literally have more new Subaru’s than any other dealer in New England.”
He continued “We have Subaru retailers calling us from all over the country trying to buy inventory from us. Unfortunately, we’re not selling to other dealers. We need them to take care of our customers.”
And while it’s a great situation for at least one dealership, Mr. Alvine isn’t optimistic about the future of Subaru inventory, even at his new dealership.
“The reality is, that while it’s great right now, the factory’s forecast for production shows shortages all the way into mid 2021. We’re fighting hard to get additional cars, but if someone’s in the market for a new Subaru, the time is really now. The incentives from Subaru are unprecedented, but they’re driving demand for inventory that’s going to be short for quite a while. But for the month of June, at least at our store in Branford, it’s a tremendous opportunity.”
So if you’re in the market for a Subaru, this is the time, and Branford Connecticut is the place.