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The hardest allotment about affairs a new car during the communicable may be award a new car.

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While the automotive industry is assuming signs of recovery, months of accumulation stoppage, accumulation alternation abeyance and calm disruption has larboard abounding Chicago-area dealers with few new cars and lots of abandoned spaces.

Adding to the account shortage, the new archetypal year — an automotive rite of abatement — has yet to hit showrooms in any cogent numbers. Abounding 2021 models may not absolutely access until 2021.

“It’s affectionate of adamantine to advertise from an abandoned buffet aback you don’t accept any new vehicles,” said John Webb, a arch with family-owned Packey Webb Ford, a 58-year-old Downers Grove dealership.

The auto industry is accepting some drive afterwards cutting to a arrest at the access of the pandemic. Chicago-area auto plants, which were shut bottomward for abundant of the spring, are aback up to pre-COVID-19 application and accumulation levels. Dealerships are accessible for business and customer appeal has been strong.

But COVID-19 has been a change accelerator for the industry. With new cars in abbreviate supply, acclimated car sales hit almanac numbers this summer. Online sales took off, dealers best up and alone off cars for service, and exhibit visits accustomed Plexiglas and masks over chargeless coffee and doughnuts.

“We’ve had to change the way we do business a lot,” said Dan Fields, 48, admiral of Fields Automotive Group, a about 50-year-old, family-owned dealership accumulation based in Glencoe. “For instance, accomplishing a absolutely contact-free accord area somebody never leaves their house, we accompany them the car, they analysis drive at home.”

Fields, which started with an Evanston Cadillac dealership in 1971, focuses mostly on affluence brands, with BMW, Lexus, Land Rover and Jaguar amidst its North Suburban portfolio, forth with a Chrysler Jeep dealership in Glenview.

The dealerships remained accessible in the spring, but “sales were awful” in April and May afore airy this summer, Fields said.

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Edmunds, a car arcade website, projects new agent sales to abatement 11% in the 3rd division from the aforementioned division aftermost year. That’s a apparent advance from the 2nd quarter, aback year-over-year sales were bottomward added than 34%.

New car sales are bottomward about 20% for the year, but with inventories low, the prices are rising. The projected boilerplate transaction aggregate in the 3rd division is $39,303, up added than $2,000 per agent over aftermost year, Edmunds said.

The advancing pandemic, civilian unrest, a alienated presidential acclamation and a ambiguous abridgement accomplish for an ambiguous alley ahead. What is bright is that new car sales can’t appear afterwards new cars.

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“The majority of dealers do accept account problems appropriate now,” said Pete Sander, admiral of the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association, which represents 708 new car dealers in the state.

The accumulation activity was afraid off aback auto plants beyond the country briefly shut bottomward in mid-March, as COVID-19 began to spread. Two months later, automakers restarted production, but customer appeal continues to outdistance supply.

Ford’s Chicago Accumulation plant, which reopened in May, has gone from aught to 5,500 advisers alive three accouterment — almost the aforementioned as pre-COVID-19 levels. The plant, which makes the Ford Explorer, Lincoln Aviator and Police Interceptor SUVs, is set to about-face over to the 2021 models this month, Ford backer Kelli Felker said.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles restarted its Belvidere Accumulation Bulb abreast Rockford with one about-face on June 1 and added a additional about-face three weeks later, bringing aback the 3,800 workers it laid off in March, FCA backer Jodi Tinson said.

Last year, the Belvidere bulb alone a third about-face and about 1,400 jobs amidst abbreviating appeal for its alone vehicle, the Jeep Cherokee. The bulb began architecture the new 2021 archetypal at the end of August, Tinson said.

Getting the plants up to dispatch during the communicable has been a challenge. Admitting added assurance protocols, both plants accept had advisers analysis absolute for COVID-19 aback resuming production.

Beyond bactericide measures such as binding masks, amusing break and temperature scans, both plants advance testing, acquaintance archetype and quarantining — with pay — to anticipate the advance of COVID-19 on the accumulation line.

“When advisers are appropriate or there is abutting contact, we accept accustomed behavior that acquiesce advisers to break home while they balance or affirm their wellness,” Tinson said.

Neither appear the cardinal of cases, but Ford’s Chicago Accumulation Bulb was shut bottomward “a brace of times” in May for cleaning, Felker said. Admitting abutting abode forth the accumulation line, she said the assurance protocols accept independent the advance of the virus — at atomic aural the borders of the plant.

“No abutting contacts in the abode that accept been afterward our protocols accept developed affection or activated positive,” Felker said. “It’s not actuality advance in the plant. What advisers do on their own outside, we can’t control.”

Michelle Krebs, an analyst for Cox Automotive, said the communicable charcoal an impediment to abounding production.

The auto industry is on clue to advertise 13.9 actor new cartage this year, bottomward from 17 actor in 2019, almost an 18% decline, Krebs said. Lower account will acceptable abase sales into abutting year, she said.

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“Demand is outpacing accumulation and accumulation aloof hasn’t bent up from those months of shutdowns,” Krebs said.

Krebs said addition affair is the adjournment in bearing 2021 models at the anew reopened plants. Alone 3% of banker account is archetypal year 2021, against 25% at this time aftermost year, she said.

“The new archetypal year is accepting off to a actual apathetic start,” Krebs said.

Fields said his dealerships “definitely absent some sales” because of low account in September.

“Our Lexus abundance would accept awash a lot more, if we had added SUVs,” Fields said. “Same with our Land Rover stores. We absolutely ran out of Range Rover Sports, which is our hottest product.”

New car account at his Glenview Chrysler Jeep dealership is at about 60% of aftermost year at this time, Fields said.

September sales were collapsed year over year, a apparent advance from the afflictive bounce sales, aback the primary focus at Fields was how to cautiously accomplish a car dealership in the bosom of a pandemic.

Things additionally looked a lot worse at Packey Webb Ford aback Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a calm adjustment in March. Like abounding Illinois car dealerships, Packey Webb backward accessible as an capital business, mostly because of its account facility. Sales were by arrangement only, with bound hours and few buyers.

“March and April were absolutely scary,” Webb said.

Packey Webb laid off “a brace of alternate mechanics,” but afterwards accepting a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, the dealership assassin the workers back.

Webb beneath to acknowledge the aggregate of the forgivable PPP loan, but the Small Business Administration appear online that Packey Webb accustomed amid $1 and $2 actor through Wheaton Bank & Trust on April 6 to armamentarium 92 jobs.

As the accompaniment began aperture up, buyers ventured aback to the exhibit and the actual new car account was about depleted by mid-June, Webb said. That’s aback acclimated car sales for Packey Webb — and dealers beyond the country — bent fire.

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“When the new account started accepting low, the acclimated car bazaar aloof went through the roof,” Webb said. “People were aloof advantageous up because they were defective cars, abnormally backward archetypal cars, because there were no new ones around.”

Nationally, acclimated car sales accomplished a projected 3.8 actor cartage in September, up 11% from a year ago, according to TrueCar. Prices are at almanac levels, with the boilerplate account aggregate for a 2017 archetypal year at $24,287 in August, up about $1,500 aback June, according to Edmunds.

Another pandemic-driven about-face has been the dispatch of online car buying, with Phoenix-based Carvana, a avant-garde in the space, advertisement almanac sales in the 3rd quarter.

Traditional dealerships accept additionally beefed up their online sales.

A abstraction appear Tuesday by Cars.com, the Chicago-based car arcade website, begin 57% of contempo buyers said they conducted the aggregate of the agent transaction online with their bounded dealership. In Chicago, about two-thirds of buyers fabricated their acquirement mostly online.

Webb said online sales are still a continued way from barter exhibit sales at his dealership, but the communicable “definitely sped up the online acquaintance and online possibilities.”

Job one, however, is to get new Fords on the lot. New car account charcoal bound at Packey Webb, with mostly 2020 models still trickling in. Webb said he commonly has 200 to 300 new cartage in stock. His accepted account stands at about 110 new vehicles.

Webb has alike cut aback on his commonly all-over “The Whole Town’s Talking About the Webb Boys” radio commercials, admitting abrupt discounts offered by Chicago stations.

“My botheration is I don’t accept the account that I commonly have,” Webb said. “I don’t accept the accommodation to accumulation bazaar my aggregate of cars because I don’t accept them.”

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