Rock County auto dealers balance delays caused by COVID-19 with steady demand | Business News

Vehicle dealerships in Rock County say they are still seeing issues with the auto supply chain due to the impact of COVID-19.

However, one Beloit dealer predicts things could return to normal for the industry towards the year’s end.

Since late February of 2020, the auto industry has been hit in seemingly all sectors by the pandemic, from worker shortages to part delays.

Finley Buick, GMC owner-operator Tom Finley says the auto supply chain can handle current demand, but stressed that the supply chain wasn’t capable of catching up on pent up demand for vehicles.

“The supply chain is broken,” Finley said. “Since they had to take eight to 10 weeks out of production dealing with COVID-19 last year, they got behind on production as demand stayed relatively stable. With demand staying strong, they are building as much as they can, but it’s not catching up with past demand.”

Finley said his customers are seeking out new vehicles before they are even on the lot.

“We have a locater system to see what other dealers have and we match customer needs to find that and the dealerships are willing to buy something out of their inventory and vice versa,” Finley said.

By the third quarter of this year, Finley said he’s hopeful that the supply chain for vehicles and automotive parts will have caught up from early pandemic delays. One thing that hasn’t changed though has been the way customers still seek out an in-person viewing of the vehicle they want.

“People are really inclined to do their research online and do inquiries online, however, people want to come in for that authentic experience,” Finley said.

The pandemic hit close to home for Finley as the dealership had to undergo “significant” layoffs in the spring, Finley said. But all employees have been brought back and all staff are following COVID-19 guidelines to keep employees and customers safe.

“We’re doing what we have to to keep people safe,” Finley said.

At Tom Peck Ford in Clinton, Parts Manager Ted Lindemulder said many common parts are on back order that would typically be readily available in past years, like brake pads and rotors.

He said the dealership has had to work around part shortages for routine vehicle service and reschedule service appointments when parts aren’t available.

“It’s definitely been a struggle,” Lindmulder said. “It’s still about the same even now compared to last year. It really started changing last spring.”

Lindmulder said dealerships in the greater Rock County area have worked together to supply each other with needed parts when supplies run low.

“I think we’ve handled it as best we could,” Lindmulder said. “Everyone is taking proper precautions to make sure everyone is safe and that the work still gets done.”