CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio – When the automobile industry supply line was choked from pandemic-related backups last year, Cascade Auto Group reached out to customers to keep them informed. The effort enabled the company to have a solid year in sales and service.
“As we moved into , demand for cars was still strong,” says Dave Flanagan, general sales manager at Cascade.
“The problem was that our inventory was being depleted. We weren’t getting the allotment of cars we were expecting to replace what had been sold. By April the shortage was widespread. And no one could tell us how long the crisis would last,” he says.
Cascade Auto Group operates three dealerships: Audi Cuyahoga Falls, Cascade Mazda and Cascade Subaru.
A shortage of computer chips had forced automakers to curb production but it was only part of the problem. A shortage of truck drivers meant delivery of finished cars was slowed even more.
There is an old adage that says you can’t sell from an empty store, Flanagan says. Yet that’s exactly what dealers were scrambling to do. Communicating with customers became paramount, especially those who were coming off leases in the months ahead.
“We began contacting lease customers well in advance about the problem we had getting cars,” says Matt Rutherford, Audi brand manager. “We offered them the chance to reserve one of the cars that was on order, even though it might take several months for a particular vehicle to arrive.”
Customers were understanding and willing to be flexible.
“The inventory problems facing car dealers were well-documented in the news. So our customers were very cooperative,” Rutherford says
Cascade’s message to current customers as well as to prospects is simple and straightforward: You need to be either very patient or very flexible.
The more specific a buyer is about his car, the longer he may have to wait for it to arrive. On the other hand, buyers who are flexible about a vehicle’s features might find a suitable car in a matter of weeks or even sooner.
While the supply chain has not entirely reopened, progress has been made, according to Flanagan. Customers can see which cars are on the way at the Audi Cuyahoga Falls website and even begin the buying process.
“A buyer could complete the entire purchase process online,” he says, “but most would rather meet in person with one of our salespeople.”