Jan 25, 2022 - Economy

Automakers shift toward reservations, altering how Americans buy cars

A Ford Maverick at a dealership. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

A Ford Maverick at a dealership. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

An industrywide move toward reservations — instead of in-the-moment purchasing — could alter the way Americans buy vehicles, limiting what’s available on dealership lots.

Driving the news: Ford announced Monday that it will stop accepting orders for the 2022 Ford Maverick, a compact pickup with a $20,000 starting price, due to overwhelming demand.

  • Ford has also taken reservations for the Mustang Mach-E, Bronco and F-150 Lightning.
  • The company is among a growing number of automakers that are accepting reservations — including Tesla, GM, Jeep and Lucid.

Context: The global chip shortage has triggered vehicle shortfalls, driving up prices and creating more competition for inventory.

  • “The chip shortage caused some unhappy consumers,” Autotrader analyst Michelle Krebs tells Axios. Automakers are “trying to have a little more control.”

How it works: Consumers typically reserve vehicles for free or for a small fee through automakers’ websites, securing their place in line. Then they are directed to a dealer to pay up when the vehicle is available.

But, but, but: Automakers are still under pressure to get cars on dealership lots because no one likes having to wait months.

  • “That ain’t the American way,” Krebs says.

The bottom line: Automakers are OK missing out on a few immediate orders if it means they can make production plans with confidence that they won’t end up building more units than they can sell.

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