Need a new car? Here's why you could be waiting a while

If you’re having trouble getting a vehicle, you’re not alone.

A global computer chip shortage has many car manufacturers delaying shipments. The lack of microchips means you could be waiting a year or more to get into that new ride.

Buyers like Wendee Lawig-Armstrong are travelling to other cities, trying to secure a new car. She drove six hours to Ottawa from Larder Lake.

“I went online and I find there’s more choices here,” says Lawig-Armstrong. “There’s not too many vehicles up north. We were driving and we could only see three or four vehicles in the showroom and things like that.”

She says buying her first brand new car was worth the six-hour drive.

“It's exciting. It's like something you can call your own. You know, you work hard for how many years, and then you buy a new car.”

Dealerships all across Ottawa are having a hard time keeping cars on the lot because not many are showing up to begin with.

“We do have some cars on the lot. Obviously not as many as we’d like to have,” says Ted Smith, sales manager at Jim Tubman Chevrolet. “You would be about a year-and-a-half wait if you come in today asking me for a Corvette.”

Smith says dozens have been put onto a wait list for Chevy Silverado trucks. As the vehicles come in, they go out.

“I’ve been here for 28 years and I have never seen it this low. I’d just never think this was possible,” says Smith. “People aren’t being as picky because of a lack of inventory and the lack of options towards the cars. They’re kind of taking what they can get.”

The cause, a shortage of microchips that vehicles require to control everything from the infotainment system to the windshield wipers.

“They’re the chips that are making everything smart. From your car to your home appliances to your phone to your computer. All of these things,” says Sarah Prevette, Chair of Canada’s Semiconductor Council.

Prevette also says the pandemic put a strain on an industry that was already being pushed to its limits.

“When COVID-19 happened, we sort of had this perfect storm where, all of a sudden, unexpected demand surged,” says Prevette. “Particularly home electronics to be able to go online for your school or for work. Everyone went remote, all of a sudden. So, that was unprecedented and unforecasted demand.”

Experts say Canada needs to stop relying on other countries and start manufacturing its own chips to avoid these types of shortages.

“If chips are now a part of all future industry, what responsibility do we have as a country to ensure that we have steady supply?” asks Prevette.

As for Lawig-Armstrong, she has a long drive home, but says it will be in a car she’s happy to have, after waiting months to finally get it.

“The excitement of driving it, to be able to have that freedom to go wherever you want to go,” says Lawig-Armstrong. “And to make memories with your family.”