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Semiconductor crisis makes its presence felt among buyers as 40 per cent say they’ll downgrade vehicle specification

  • Two-fifths of buyers would be willing to downgrade to a lower spec, despite ongoing microchip shortage
  • Survey by What Car? finds 58 per cent of in-market buyers are aware of the current crisis
  • 35 per cent of new car buyers set to switch to used vehicles if expected lead times cannot be met

Time 2 weeks ago

The ongoing semiconductor crisis may be having a profound effect on the new car market but fresh research has found buyers are still unwilling to switch to lower-spec vehicles.

A poll of 1,920 in-market buyers conducted by What Car? found that 40 per cent of consumers would be willing to downgrade below their desired specification.

Fifty-eight per cent of those asked were aware of the current microchip shortage.


Analysts found that 35 per cent of new car buyers were considering a switch to used vehicles if lead times go on too long. The results also showed that just 38 per cent of new car buyers expected to receive their vehicle within eight weeks of ordering.

The microchips affected are needed for many of the infotainment, camera and connected features fitted to modern cars.

Manufacturers are being significantly influenced by the shortage. 

Ford has already confirmed it will produce 1.1m fewer vehicles this year because of the issue, while Audi furloughed 10,000 staff earlier in the year to reduce vehicle production.

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Manufacturers have also started to adjust vehicle specification levels, with certain technical features now often reserved for the highest trims. 

Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?, said: ‘Just as demand for new cars was returning, the industry faces a serious risk of sales being impacted by the shortage. 

‘With more than a third of new car buyers prepared to switch to used or nearly new cars if their chosen vehicle cannot be delivered on time, the lack of microchips is set to add further pressure to an already inflated used car market.’

Industry analyst Mike Jones told Car Dealer he was not surprised by the latest findings.

He said: ‘It isn’t a surprise for me that customers don’t want to downgrade and are happy to switch to a used car to get the vehicle they want.

‘The car is an importance purchase for people and they are now phenomenally well researched when they come to buy.

‘There are lots of cars in the UK, brought in as a hedge against Brexit, which just aren’t the right spec.

‘There is an additional untapped market source of used cars when we get the word out as to how much consumers’ cars are worth at the moment – the challenge is how we get those customers into a replacement vehicle given the current shortages.’

Jack Williams's avatar

Jack joined the Car Dealer team in 2021 as a staff writer. He previously worked as a national newspaper journalist for BNPS Press Agency. He has provided news and motoring stories for a number of national publications including The Sun, The Times and The Daily Mirror.

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