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Dealers complain new VW, Audi and Porsche cars stuck in huge German port backlog

  • Thousands of cars are said to be stuck at port of Emden waiting to be shipped
  • Rumours suggest VW has ‘not bid enough for shipping places’ leading to delays
  • Dealers frustrated at not being able to tell customers when cars will arrive
  • VW Group says ‘all available shipping capacity’ is currently being used elsewhere

Time 8:22 am, April 17, 2023

VW Group car dealers have complained ‘thousands of new vehicles’ are stuck in a German port unable to get to the UK.

The German port of Emden, which ships around two million cars across the world annually, reportedly has a huge backlog of vehicles waiting for export.

One car dealer said the port usually has around 6,000 cars waiting for export but at the moment the number of cars waiting to leave ‘has quadrupled’.

Audi, VW, Seat, VW Commercial and Porsche vehicles are particularly badly affected with cars stacking up in car parks.

One Audi retailer told Car Dealer: ‘The problem was particularly bad in March and has just got worse. It’s causing us lots of problems because new cars have been shipped from the factories and are just stuck in the port.

‘We’re having to tell customers their cars have been delayed and that we don’t actually know when they will arrive, and of course many find that hard to believe.

‘There are rumours in the trade that it’s because the VW Group hasn’t bid enough for the transportation boats to get the cars out of the port and that’s meant there aren’t the boats to ship the cars.’

Another dealer said he was having to tell customers the cars they were expecting in March would now ‘probably arrive in May’. 

‘The issue is it doesn’t really matter when these new cars arrived at the port originally as they get penned in – so it’s not a case of the first in are the first out,’ said a VW dealer.

‘We’ve had news that some cars that got built earlier are stuck right at the back of huge queues of cars waiting for transport and we’re not being told when they may arrive.

‘It’s incredibly frustrating for us as we’re dealing with angry customers who don’t understand why we can’t let them know when their car will get here.’

Port of Emden

Internet forums are awash with complaints from VW Group customers around the world who are waiting for cars stuck at the port.

‘My sales exec at the dealer has confirmed to me that the car is at the port being prepared for shipping but has no idea when it will actually be shipped,’ said Marcha, a poster on a forum thread in the States entitled ‘what is actually going on at the Port of Emden’. 

They added: ‘Production was completed in the second week in February. It’s worrying that vehicles are there for months apparently.’

On the forum, Keadog said: ‘Our son’s Taycan has been there for a few weeks with no forthcoming explanation. 

‘I think three potential transport vessels have come and gone since it arrived at port. He would like to know as well but can’t get any info.’

Volkswagen describes the port of Emden as ‘the heart’ of its logistics. The port is the third largest in Europe and specialises in car exports and wind turbines.

Emden Port car transporter

A car transport ship at the port of Emden (Credit: Port of Emden)

David Bailey, Professor of Business Economics at the University of Birmingham, told Car Dealer he didn’t think the issue was down to poor bids for shipping by VW.

He said: ‘There is a problem at Emden and it isn’t really clear what is causing it.

‘Rumours over VW not bidding enough for shipping don’t seem that credible as the price of shipping on key trade routes has fallen by something like 85 per cent below its peak.

‘What we are seeing is the chip shortage easing and auto production and supply improving markedly – my guess is that the speed of this upturn has caught up with very busy auto shipping ports like Emden with a big inflow of cars for exports and some getting stuck as a result.’

A spokesperson for VW Group UK said it was ‘not familiar’ with the numbers of cars dealers said were stuck in the port, but didn’t deny there were delays with exporting.

‘What we can say is demand for vehicle shipments from and to continental Europe has rapidly expanded in recent months as the market has recovered post-Covid, to the point that all available shipping capacity is currently in use,’ added the spokesperson.

‘This is impacting all manufacturers as well as the Volkswagen Group, and can lead to short delays in vehicle movements.

‘Our Emden facility is operating within its usual capacity, and we continue to work closely with our logistics colleagues in the Volkswagen Group to improve the availability of shipping, as well as with our dealer networks to keep them informed.’

The port of Emden has been contacted for comment.

Main image: Port of Emden, VW Group Italy

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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