May 18, 2022

Botu Linum

The Car & Automotive Devotees

More car buyers building their own online as CT dealership lots remain depleted

4 min read

Ordering direct from the manufacturer has been a car buying option for decades, but these types of sales have intensified in recent months as ongoing supply chain issues have left local dealerships with nearly empty lots.

The process to build your own new car involves customers going online or into a local dealership and picking out the specific color and options they want. More customers have been opting for this method instead of picking from the limited selection at the local dealership.

“The process varies from one dealer, one car manufacturer to the next,” said Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights at, a California-based online resource for automotive inventory and information.

“With some of the automakers, you can do it online. But it’s a little bit more manageable if you go to the dealer and place your order there.”

According to NerdWallet, a San Francisco-based personal finance site, Ford received 74,000 new vehicle retail orders in November — 64,000 more than November 2020. Ford allows buyers to order some of its popular models online and have them delivered to a dealership.

With no Connecticut dealerships, many local Tesla owners are also familiar with the process of building a car online.

Industry analysts and consultants say more consumers are buying direct from the manufacturers to avoid being disappointed in what’s available at local dealerships.

“As far as getting what you want, it’s the only way,” Drury said. “More consumers are looking into this because of what they are paying.”

Clifford Atiyeh, a Connecticut resident who is vice president of New England Motor Press Association, said the practice of customers ordering direct from manufacturers “was a lot more relevant in the 1950s and 1960s.”

“Since then, it has been the dealers controlling the stock,” Atiyeh said. “But since the pandemic, the build-to-order activity has grown for really hot models.”

“The Ford Bronco is so hot that people who ordered it last year are still waiting for it to be delivered,” he said.

Much like buying direct from the manufacturer, the Ford Bronco is experiencing a rebirth.

Introduced in 1965 as a 1966 model, it was Ford’s first foray into what became the sport utility vehicle market. But changing tastes resulted in Ford discontinuing the model in the mid-1990s, according to Karl Brauer, executive analyst for the automotive data website

Ford began offering the new generation of the Bronco in 2020 and now Brauer said it has become incredibly popular.

“A lot of people grew nostalgic for it and they love the new stylings and available options,” he said. “It’s now out-gunning Jeep Wrangler at the top of that category (sport utility vehicles).”

Once a consumer has placed their order with the manufacturer, the amount of time it takes for the vehicle to arrive varies widely depending on the popularity of the model.

“It can be a few months, it can be as many as eight or nine,” Drury said.

It took Wallingford resident Amy Koproski Draghi three months to get her 2022 Buick Encore. Draghi said her new car arrived two weeks ago.

“I ordered the same make and model I already had,” she said. “There weren’t any on the lot. I would not have ordered sight unseen except I was already familiar with the model.”

New Haven resident Angela DiFonzo said she took the direct order route because the insurance company she works for requires cars be purchased from the manufacturer. DiFonzo said she just received the 2022 Ford Escape that she ordered four months ago.

“My company changed requirements due to cost effectiveness for ordering and shortness of time,” she said. “The dealers were increasing prices for the available cars on the lot.”

While Draghi said she was happy with the price she paid for her new car, industry experts say going the direct order route can make it more difficult for consumers to get a good price. Drury said one problem is “the trade-in vale of your old vehicle is going to fluctuate” as you wait for your new car to arrive.

“You end up just really hoping for the best,” he said.

Brauer said consumers may be able to negotiate a better price, because from one perspective, direct manufacturer orders are beneficial to the dealer.

“They know that they’ve already sold it and it’s not going to sit around on the lot for weeks,” he said. That’s important because dealers generally don’t own the vehicles that are on their lots and are making payments on those that remain unsold.

Special orders also represent a guarantee that consumers are not going to change their minds or buy from another dealer.

Hayden Reynolds, general manager and one of the owners of Reynolds’ Subaru in Lyme, said his dealership has had its own online shopping capabilities for some time.

“Very few people we found wanted to do that,” he said of online purchases. “They want to see what they’re buying, touch it, drive it,” he said. “They want to make sure they are making a sound decision. It’s one the largest purchases they make after buying a home.”

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