Car inventory empty, sales, rental prices stuck in high gear

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DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — Car lots once full of shiny new rides are now overtaken by empty parking spots. 

“I’ve been in the business for 45 years and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Ray Huffines, who owns dealerships in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Some of them don’t even have vehicles in their showrooms.

“The inventory room is very low,” he said. “Generally we have an 80 day supply of vehicles, now we might have 15 days or even 10 days so everybody’s inventories are very low right now.”

When the pandemic began, auto factories shut down and the demand for at-home office setups led to semiconductor makers pivoting from cars to electronics. Now, there’s a computer chip shortage and the need for speed is back.

“Every dealership that we stop by the price is way up high,” one car shopper told NewsNation. Uncomparable prices, like you can’t afford it.” 

According to government consumer data, used car prices are up about 45% from last year. The average new-vehicle sales price tops $40,000.

Kwan Tran lives in Texas and has been in the market for a new truck for about a month. He says he can’t even find a car salesman he can bargain with.

“They’ll say…well, more than likely this car will sell by tomorrow,” Tran recalled. “And in most cases, I probably think that’s true. Like I said, they’re selling at sticker. In the past, I don’t think I’ve ever paid anything sticker.” 

And rental cars now cost an arm and a leg.

“I won’t pay that to come to Kansas for the first time for three days and pay $300-$400 when I may drive it 30 miles,” one shopper told NewsNation.

Prices are so high they’re putting some post-pandemic plans in neutral.

“It takes away from other activities after paying that kind of money,” a disappointed rental car customer said.

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