Buying a car in southeast Iowa? Here’s why they’re hard to find

WEST BURLINGTON — Dan Wenig finds himself spending more time on the road these days in search of used vehicles to buy for his lot in West Burlington. 

“I’ll try to hit two today,” Wenig, who co-owns Family Motors Inc. with his wife, Becky, said Wednesday during his three-hour journey from Morton, Illinois, where he had gone for a dealer sale he doesn’t normally attend, to another in Mount Vernon, Illinois. “I typically go to buy cars three days a week, and it’s getting harder and harder.”

Up until the past year, Family Motors’ inventory typically consisted of 40 to 50 vehicles. Now, Wenig considers himself lucky to have 15 displayed on his West Agency Road property.

On the north end of Gear Avenue, Deery Brothers Inc., whose lot has more vehicles than those of other area dealerships, is down 40% on new car inventory. 

“The average consumer is used to pulling into a lot and seeing them parked six feet apart,” said Brad Deery, who owns four Deery Brothers dealerships and co-owns an additional eight with his cousins. “Today they’re parked 36 feet apart because we have so much space.”

Vehicles are shown Thursday at the Deery Brothers car dealership, 200 S. Gear Ave., in West Burlington.

It’s a problem experienced nationwide by new and used dealers alike as the auto industry struggles to restore production to pre-pandemic levels. That effort is being hindered by materials and parts shortages brought on by COVID-19 and other events.

“It’s been interesting to see something like this, because I’ve never seen this in 40 years of being a car dealer, this shortage of cars used and new,” Deery said.

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