Car Loans Get Longer, Rental Vehicles Get Older

While nobody needs to tell you that the economy isn’t in good health, we should at least hip you to the latest automotive trends relating to the financial purgatory we’re currently living through. Ford sent a memo to dealers last week indicating that it would be removing the minimum FICO requirement for 84-month financing, indicating that the industry may soon normalize auto loans that are even longer than the 72-month whoppers that have grown in popularity over the last several years.

Meanwhile, those needing a vehicle intermittently will find that rental rates have not been declining as hoped. Despite analysts previously suggesting that auto pricing may stabilize through the fall, we now look to be going into the holidays facing familiar high-priced troubles — and there’s really no reason to think that’s going to change after 2022 gets here.

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Subaru Getting Super Screwed By Semiconductor Shortage

The global semiconductor shortage has been particularly hard on Western automakers, though it’s not been peaches and cream for Asian brands. Following news that Nissan had run into issues resulting in additional downtime this summer, we’ve learned that Subaru is currently operating with a scant, nine-day supply of product and will be required to conduct more plant closures due to a lack of chips.

Having already stalled its Yajima plant on multiple occasions, as well enacting work stoppages at Subaru of Indiana Automotive (its U.S. facility), this is hardly where the brand wanted to find itself going into the warmer months. On Friday, Subaru announced it would be idling two plants in Japan’s Gunma prefecture this July.

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Chip Shortage Encourages Nissan to Idle U.S. Facilities Again

Rumor has it that the semiconductor shortage is going to be leaving Nissan facilities operating in North America to contend with a difficult summer. This issue appears to have been largely unavoidable but it’s hardly the position a manufacturer hoping to launch a comeback tour wanted to find itself occupying.

But, before we make this look like some failing on the part of Nissan, let’s take a look down memory lane to see some of the other companies that were negatively impacted by the chip shortage this year.

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Rental Agencies Uncharacteristically Buying Used Cars

With rental companies coming off a particularly lean 2020, fleet downsizing turned out to be a necessity for many agencies. Unfortunately, demand for rental vehicles has begun to return and some markets have found themselves operating with an insufficient number of cars. The upside to this is the ability to charge exorbitant fees for models nobody wanted to rent in the first place. But businesses can’t cash in on vehicles that didn’t get rented, leaving agencies desperate for new product that’s been backlogged by the auto industry’s semiconductor shortage.

The solution is a novel one, at least for rental companies. Rather than gamble the business on whether or not supply chains normalize before summer, they’ve been prowling auctions and hoovering up used cars in record numbers.

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Summer Gas Shortage Likely for Dumbest Reason

As if you needed more doom and gloom to kick off this week, the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) lobby has confessed that its fleet will go into the next few months operating well below capacity. That means there’s a very good chance that some parts of the country could see gas shortages over the summer. While we’re praying that this doesn’t come with with the deluge of less-than-desirable automobiles that followed the infamous 1973 oil crisis, a similar spike in fuel price is likely as gasoline becomes sporadically difficult to find.

With the United States technically still energy independent, the culprit is not a foreign oil embargo but our own inability to plan ahead. North America was already operating with a deficit of qualified tanker drivers ahead of the pandemic. Lockdowns suppressed demand as everyone was forced to remain immobile, suppressing demand that ultimately encouraged widespread layoffs and early retirement. Now there aren’t enough drivers as demand stabilizes.

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Semiconductor Shortage By the Numbers, Looks Bad

The global shortage of semiconductor chips has really done a number on the industry and it’s just one of several major supplier issues created by our response to the pandemic. Years from now, people will look back and use the benefit of hindsight to come up with the perfect solution to a problem that has since evaporated. But all we can manage in the present is an up-to-date tally on how much product is being lost and wait for better news.

AutoForecast Solutions (AFS) has been keeping tabs on the situation and recently updated its numbers through the week of April 30th. Production schedules in North America are now reportedly 121,000 vehicles shy of where they’re supposed to be. Though we need to pull back and take a gander at what the whole industry was facing ahead of the latest figures to have a more complete understanding of this particularly dire automotive quagmire.

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Semiconductor Shortage Delays More Automobiles

The industry is having to stall more plants to contend with the semiconductor shortage that’s currently making it more difficult for you to get everything from a smartphone on up to your next vehicle. Ford Motor Co. recently informed employees that its Dearborn truck plant (easily one of its most profitable facilities) would need to be idled through the weekend to create a buffer for semiconductor chips. Worse yet, it’s not the first time the automaker has had to stall output of the F-150 this year. Ford has also started manufacturing trucks without all the necessary components, stating it would hold vehicles for a few weeks to account for supply chain delays.

Meanwhile, Chrysler has made a similar announcement about its minivan output as Windsor Assembly faces another chip deficit. Unifor Local 444 recently stated that the facility would be staring down the barrel of a four-week shutdown starting next week. Considering Chrysler’s minivans literally just dealt with a three-week stall over the chip shortage, union workers are understandably upset. Days earlier, General Motors Canada also announced that its CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, will likely remain idle until the middle of April.

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  • Sonik_fury I always dreamed, if I won the lottery, that I would have a garage very similar to Leno's. I love that he's a real car guy, not just buying them to show off.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic "...to make room for reality TV reruns..."What an insult!! Shows how far broadcast TV will stoop for a few extra bucks.I much appreciate Jay for keeping the "motor head" world alive in a Zoom society. However, maybe it's time for him to retire or semi-retire. There's enough material for him to do YouTube with most auto related companies willing to underwrite....but the number of shows would be at his own pace.I wish him well!!
  • Gregtwelve I had an '88 Turbo Coupe with 5 spd bought used and really liked it. I loved the looks, it had decent power for the time and a nice interior. Unfortunately the head gasket went at around 60K miles. I repaired it myself and sold it.
  • Mattwc1 I bought a Maverick specifically because I wanted utility and great fuel economy. My wife has a RAV4 hybrid that we really like. I think Toyota would print money with a smaller RAV4 based truck.
  • Varezhka Dunno. Looking at Maverick and Santa Cruz, having the engine in the front of the driver and a crew cab layout will mean the rear bed will be about the same size as kei trucks. And it will still be more than 16ft long. I'd rather get a Tacoma and/or a Hilux at that point.If we actually want a small truck with usable bed, it will have to be cab over layout with standard cab like Toyota TownAce Truck. We already know how popular that would be, even without getting into federal safety requirements.