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Semiconductor shortage hurts car and camper dealerships

Local car, camper, and boat dealerships are struggling to fill their showrooms with new merchandise, and help customers get exactly what they want.
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 11:32 AM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Manufacturers nationwide are struggling due to a shortage in semiconductors, and that’s creating an inventory problem for camper and car dealerships. Semiconductors are chips that perform control and memory functions in products ranging from computers and cellphones to vehicles and microwave ovens.

King’s Campers in Rib Mountain sells motorhomes, travel trailers, and campers, but the lack of new inventory has led some people to buy something they don’t love.

“We’re trying to stay as well-stocked as we can and try to educate the customer on trying to be a little ahead of schedule on their planning processes, because we just don’t want them to be buying just because they have to, instead of getting what they really want at a very good and reasonable price,” John Gajewski explained.

Industry officials say semiconductor companies diverted production to consumer electronics during the worst of the COVID-19 slowdown in auto sales last spring. Global automakers were forced to close plants to prevent the spread of the virus. When automakers recovered, there weren’t enough chips.

In addition, the auto industry is using more semiconductors than ever before in new vehicles with electronic features such as Bluetooth connectivity and driver-assist, navigation, and hybrid-electric systems.

“Once the parts availability frees up, we’re confident that we’ll start seeing lots of trucks delivering cars to our dealerships to get us back up for a late spring run for sales,” said Greg Jensen from Kocourek Automotive.

Jensen said with limited inventory they’re showing customers what’s out there with virtual methods. And with limited inventory, the value of used cars has skyrocketed. Some dealers say they’re paying top dollar for trade-ins.

Earlier this month, industry leaders including Intel, AMD and Qualcomm sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to include funding for semiconductor manufacturing and research in his administration’s plans for economic recovery from the pandemic.

The global semiconductor market is expected to be worth about $129 billion in 2025, nearly triple its size in 2019.

<I>The Associated Press contributed to this report</i>

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