Eighty per cent of Canadian car shoppers expect to receive their new vehicle within a month, while 20% expect to wait more than a month, according to a new national survey conducted by AutoTrader.ca. 

The survey was conducted during the ongoing global microchip shortage to better understand the importance of new vehicle delivery timeframes. That may be an issue for dealers who hope to meet consumer demands and sell more vehicles, but the situation is not without opportunity—as they can still focus on targeted marketing. 

“The survey set out to gauge just how long consumers are willing to wait for that perfect car, and if they are now more open to the influence of advertising for another automotive brand or model if the vehicle they want is out of stock or delayed,” said AutoTrader.ca in a news release. 

Key findings from the survey indicate that two out of three Canadian consumers believe the vehicle delivery timeframe and availability are either “important” or “very important.” And while they are willing to extend wait times, many consumers would consider switching manufacturer or model preferences if they find the time between vehicle purchase and delivery is too long.

AutoTrader.ca said new car buyers must wait anywhere from a few weeks to six months or more to have their vehicle delivered. Of the consumers they surveyed, 16% of respondents would consider switching to another vehicle if their first choice was not immediately available, even if the alternative option is actually their second or third choice.

Forty-two per cent are willing to wait until a later date to buy the vehicle they want if it is out of stock or its delivery is significantly postponed. However, for car shoppers that cannot immediately get their preferred vehicle, 22% would hold off on buying a new vehicle, and instead wait until the overall market has more available inventory.

“This indicates that 64% of car shoppers would rather wait at least some time for inventory to become available rather than compromise on their preferred vehicle,” said AutoTrader.ca, adding that “18% would consider buying a used model of their top car choice and get it right away versus switch models or cross shop competing manufacturers.”

How long are consumers willing to wait? According to the study, if the vehicle is not immediately available then 43% would be willing to wait less than three months, 31% would be willing to wait between four to six months, and 25% said they would wait more than six months. 

AutoTrader.ca said the situation can create opportunities for a variety of marketing efforts by dealers, “including developing ways to gauge—and potentially influence—a prospect’s shift in purchase intent while they wait for their preferred vehicle to become available or, in contrast, reinforce that decision for when the vehicle does eventually become available.”

The company said more than 52 percent of “brand loyalists” who would be willing to hold on for their preferred vehicle would still be open to changing brands or models while they wait. And 24% said they may be open to advertising and options from an alternative automaker. 

“This 24 percent could even be an under-representation given consumers typically underestimate the influence (of) advertising overall,” said AutoTrader.ca.

The update, they said, is that dealers should feel confident that “a strong, proactive marketing and communications plan” that addresses vehicle delivery challenges, in addition to offering top-notch customer service, can be a winning strategy.

They advise focusing on the following elements:

  • Maintaining advertising efforts. “Keep your ad dollars working for you, so you can act on opportunities to move prospective customers into an alternate nameplate, (particularly the case with network dealerships), into another model, or even used inventory”;
  • Ramp up your customer service, with a focus on flexibility—as in, a willingness to adapt your processes to keep the customer happy and informed; and
  • Create a strategic communications plan that includes the moment a purchase contract is signed up to the moment the keys are handed over.