Australia’s biggest automotive brands are urgently diverting vehicle shipments away from Victoria – or transporting them out of the state which remains in strict lockdown – and get them into interstate dealerships where there are severe stock shortages.
Some car companies are diverting almost entire shiploads that were originally destined for Melbourne and instead getting cargo ships to drop off extra vehicles in Queensland, NSW and other states.
It means new-car showrooms in Queensland and NSW and the rest of Australia except Victoria will soon be overflowing with stock after several months of stock shortages caused by production delays due to the coronavirus crisis.
Industry insiders forecast it will still take up to three months for supply to return to normal in all states and territories except for Victoria, which remains in lockdown and last month posted the single biggest new-car sales decline on record.
Some car companies have begun trucking vehicles to interstate destinations after receiving them on the docks in Melbourne.
However that approach is proving cost prohibitive in some cases as transport prices have become inflated because car carriers are returning to Melbourne empty, because sales in Victoria are almost at a standstill.
CarAdvice has been told by an industry insider some companies are taking advantage of discount rates to send cars interstate by ship, because the freighters would normally be returning to their Asian ports empty in any case.
Some car companies ship vehicles direct from their port of manufacture to a port in Australia.
But an increasing number of car companies are also using Singapore as a stop-over point, where they can reload vehicles onto certain ships to offload at Australian ports more efficiently.
If a car company can reorganise its shipping before the cars are reloaded onto a new ship in Singapore, the vehicles can be delivered to Australian ports other than Melbourne.
When running at full strength, in any given week there are usually four car-carrying ships circumnavigating Australia in a clockwise direction and another four travelling anti-clockwise.
This makes it easier to move cars by sea, as road transport becomes prohibitively expensive due to car carriers returning to Melbourne empty.
A well-placed dealer source who sells multiple car brands told CarAdvice some companies have been better than others at rearranging their logistics.
“Some of the (car) companies we deal with got onto their logistics straight away and were able to move shipments around to get cars where they’re needed most, while some missed the boat, so to speak,” he said. “They didn’t get onto it quick enough and now they’re struggling to move cars out of Melbourne.”
Official sales figures for August 2020 show the number of new vehicles reported as sold in Victoria was slashed by two-thirds – the biggest decline in recorded history – and it dragged the national market down by 28.8 per cent.
Sales in NSW and Queensland – two of the three biggest new-car markets – remained relatively strong but were down by between 14 and 16 per cent largely due to stock shortages.
“We sold more cars than we delivered,” said another major metropolitan dealer. “But we just can’t get enough stock, so we’re hoping more (cars) will come through in the coming four to eight weeks”.