One of the unexpected side effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is a shortage of pickups at Chevrolet, GMC and Ram dealers. Supplies are running out, and the factories that build these trucks remain closed.
Stores across the nation began increasing incentives in March, when the first stay-at-home orders were issued, in a bid to continue luring buyers into showrooms. They also launched online sales channels, or expanded their existing digital business. Sales nonetheless plummeted in April 2020, but in-demand vehicles, like the Ram 1500 and the Chevrolet Silverado, are still selling relatively well thanks in part to the aforementioned incentives. Pickups outsold sedans for the first time in April 2020, according to The Detroit News, by 17,000 units.
The problem is that General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), and Ford temporarily closed their factories in March. "The pipeline is very dry," said Mike Maroone, the CEO of a large dealership group named Maroone USA, in an interview with Automotive News. He told the publication his Chevrolet stores are sitting on a 30-day supply of the Silverado, which is one of America's best-selling vehicles. "That is a problem for us," he concluded.
Coronavirus-related lockdowns and factory closures compound problems already faced by dealerships who represent General Motors-owned brands. They entered 2020 with a thinner inventory than a year earlier due to the 40-day United Auto Workers (UAW) strike that paralyzed the company late in 2019, and the 0%, 84-month offers announced in March have sapped supply. Ram wasn't affected by a strike, but it has relied heavily on generous incentives to move trucks off lots. Ford, on the other hand, limited incentives to 2019 models.
Inventory levels differ greatly from region to region. The national average for the Silverado stood at an 82-day supply in March 2020, down from 120 in March 2019. Ram stores had a 114-day supply of the 1500 (compared to 134 a year earlier), while Ford bucked that trend with a 111-day supply versus 84 in 2019.
Don't panic if you're in the market for a truck; we're not facing a complete drought. Automotive News added that America's light-duty pickup inventory could fall to 400,000 units by the end of May, and drop further to 260,000 units in June. For context, there were about 700,000 light-duty trucks in stock in May and June of 2019. That's unquestionably a sharp drop, but there will still be over a quarter of a million trucks to choose from. Popular trim levels, options, and colors might be more difficult to find, and special orders will increase.
Inventory levels will begin to rise again in June if light-duty truck production resumes in the middle of May as planned and ramps up quickly. The risk of an economic recession still looms, and the number of Americans filing unemployment claims continues to rise, but dealers are optimistic about the market's recovery.
"Demand is back," Maroone said. "I think this is going to be a good sales period if we can get the product."