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Car-makers reduce choice to quash bottlenecks

Oz not yet affected by car brands limiting colours, features to reduce wait times

19 Jul 2022

CAR buyers in Australia are not yet facing the reduced colour and trim options imposed elsewhere in the world to help keep production lines pumping as manufacturers deal with interruptions caused by semi-conductor shortages, COVID-19 impacts and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


French car-maker Renault, for example, has introduced a “Fast Track” rationalisation program that reduces delivery times from between six and eight weeks to as little as 15 days, with budget-oriented subsidiary Dacia rolling out a similar “Up & Go” package.


It is a similar method as applied by Tesla for some time; offering a bare-bones approach to options and colours in order to control costs and speed up deliveries.


However, in Australia, French manufacturers Peugeot and Citroen have not at this point announced any colour streamlining programme, but have said there may be some impact as a result of the semiconductor supply shortfall.


Ford Australia says its European-made vehicles are not colour limited, though some models have been in a production pause earlier in the year as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which caused a shortage of wiring components. Other parts shortages have variously impacted production in Europe. 


Both BMW and VW have been similarly impacted in Europe, but colour choice limits are not on the agenda in Australia at this point. Mercedes-Benz Australia says its model range will not be affected.


Renault Australia national sales manager Dion Bradley told GoAuto: “Everything is pretty normal here and we haven’t been notified of any changes at this time. We are ordering cars across the model range as per usual.


“We have plenty of stock at this point and there are no restrictions on colour or features,” he added.


Judging by sales of the Arkana small SUV in France, Renault customers are accepting the limited choices rather than wait months for a personalised car.


According to Renault, customer comments at dealerships are generally positive about the limitations and are along the lines of, “Choosing the colour of my new Renault Arkana SUV was easy because only three choices were available: black, white and grey.”


Other European car-makers are similarly affected but dealing with the situation differently. Some are toying with Tesla’s approach, which has helped boost profit.


It is a significant turnaround from an industry that has pushed personalisation and upselling for years, but complicates manufacturing processes and can erode profit.


For some European manufacturers, the mantra now is: “If you want a car fast, you’ll have little to choose from.”


Renault's Fast Track offer on the new model Arkana small SUV, guarantees a new car within 30 days compared with an average five months’ wait.


The Arkana is currently available in France only in three colours instead of the usual six and one trim level (RS Line) and one engine. Asking for additional options results in no delivery date guarantee.


Fast Track orders accounted for half of Arkana new car registrations in France in June.


Renault is operating on the assumption that supply chain problems will not end anytime soon and that they will negatively impact other European manufacturers, as they already have.


This may change as mainstream car-makers digest 2020 data from JD Power that tells them 98 per cent of the model combinations across the automotive industry sell fewer than 50 units each and cumulatively account for just 25 per cent of total sales.


The remaining two per cent of combinations account for the remaining three-quarters of sales.

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