The worst crisis for automakers in 50 years has left dealerships with little to sell as prices soar for consumers
The root problem is the same across the country — a global deficit of computer chips that has forced automakers to slash output, causing shortages of new and used vehicles. But the predicament feels particularly offensive here, Detroiters say.
“This is an auto manufacturing city. It shouldn’t be short of cars,” said Benyam Tesfasion, a cabdriver who has been busy shuttling travelers from the airport to pick up rental cars at locations 10 or 20 miles away. Another feature of his daily travels, he says, is driving past giant parking lots where automakers are stockpiling newly manufactured cars that are still awaiting a few final chips.
Detroit’s experience shows how thoroughly the nearly two-year-old semiconductor shortage has upended manufacturing — and foisted change on one of America’s most beloved consumer markets.
“It may be the biggest disruption we’ve seen since the 1970s and the fuel crisis,” said Matt Anderson, a transportation historian at the Henry Ford museum complex in Dearborn, referring to the tumultuous period that forced car companies to make more fuel-efficient vehicles.
The chip shortage “is the kind of thing that my successors I’m sure will be studying about in future years,” he added.
Gone are the days when buyers could drop in on a dealership and drive home in a cherry-red convertible packed with their favorite features. Buying a car now means placing an order and waiting, sometimes for months, for the vehicle to arrive.
Also gone are the days when buyers could count…