ST. LOUIS, Mo. – General Motors extends its shutdown of several assembly plants including the one in Wentzville due to the global computer chip shortage.
The Wentzville plant went idle on Monday and was expected to resume production on Monday, September 20th. That’s now been pushed back one week until September 27th.
The cuts will compound an already short supply of cars, trucks and SUVs on dealer lots nationwide that have pushed prices to record levels. Automakers reported that U.S. dealers had just under a million new vehicles on their lots in August, 72% lower than the 3.58 million in August of 2019.
“It now appears to be accelerating in the wrong direction,” said Jeff Schuster, president of global vehicle forecasting for LMC Automotive, a consulting firm.
Industry analysts say the delta variant of the novel coronavirus has hit employees at chip factories in southeast Asia hard, forcing some plants to close. That’s worsened a chip shortage that was starting to improve earlier in the summer.
“Now the prospects for new sales for the rest of the year continue to dim with the reality that tight inventory will last well into 2022,” said Kevin Roberts, director of industry insights for Cargurus.com.
Demand for trucks, SUVs and other autos is strong, but buyers are growing frustrated due to lack of inventory and high prices. U.S. light vehicle sales fell nearly 18% in August compared with a year ago, while the average vehicle sale price hit over $41,000, a record, according to J.D. Power.
Sales of Ford’s F-Series trucks fell nearly 23% for the month.
The August sales dip and inventory shortages prompted Schuster to cut his U.S. sales forecast for the year to 15.7 million. Until the pandemic hit, sales had been running around 17 million per year.
Consumers who need a new vehicle don’t have many choices with dealer supplies so short, Schuster said. Some have left the market because they can’t find anything that meets their needs. For others, “pricing is through the roof, so they can’t afford it and aren’t willing to spend what it’s going to cost to get that vehicle.”