Cars at a dock portCars at a dock port


Stellantis car buyers being ‘forced’ to pay for new cars still stuck in ports

  • Some customers have been told they’ll need to insure and start paying finance for cars they won’t get for months
  • Cars are stuck in ports and can’t get to dealers, but Stellantis still expects dealers to register them
  • Practice branded ‘short-sighted’ and ‘ridiculous’ by franchisees who spoke to Car Dealer

Time 2:05 pm, December 14, 2022

Some Stellantis new car buyers have been forced to pay three months’ worth of finance instalments, insurance and tax for new cars they haven’t even been able to collect.

Stellantis dealers have accused the manufacturing giant of ‘short-sighted’ practices as it ‘strong-arms’ them into registering cars still stuck in ports.

Sources say Stellantis is forcing its dealer network to register customers’ new cars that haven’t reached showrooms.

One franchise holder even claimed the manufacturer had made it register cars that were still on a ferry – or risk losing its bonuses.

Some new car buyers have also had to be told by dealers that if they don’t agree to register their car before it arrives at the dealership they’ll lose it completely. 

Many of these buyers have been waiting up to nine months for their vehicles to arrive.

Stellantis runs Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Fiat, Abarth and Vauxhall dealers in the UK. 

One Stellantis dealer that represents several of the brands said the current situation was ‘ridiculous’ and that customers were ‘furious’.

Car Dealer has agreed to keep the names of the dealers anonymous as those we spoke to feared further sanctions from Stellantis.

‘This is all down to logistics and not being able to get the cars to dealers,’ said one dealer group boss.

‘They are forcing us to register cars that we know are going to be three months away and it’s a very awkward conversation to have with customers.

‘We had one customer who had paid three finance instalments on their vehicle and they still haven’t seen it.

‘This is so short-sighted. It’s all about bonuses for the manufacturer and allocation with the factories. If they don’t register the cars, they lose the allocation.’

A tip-off sent to Car Dealer explained that some cars were even being taken off customers that had waited months for their new vehicle as they refused to pay before taking delivery of the car.

Stellantis’s problems with new car deliveries is so bad that dealers say they’ve been told to ‘go and pick the cars up from the ports themselves’.

A briefing sent to the network said these were ‘extraordinary measures’.

But another dealer said: ‘That simply doesn’t work. We can’t go and pick up individual cars. They need to get their transport sorted out and get these cars to dealers.’

The tip-off added: ‘Fines have been issued and then “held” after dealers hit back with legal papers.

‘Cars have been removed from customers, which has left some extremely disappointed. 

‘Customers are being pressured to register cars, as dealers cannot afford to have the fine or lose the car.

‘If a car is taken off a dealer, any replacement order is not price-protected either, meaning the customer is financially worse off.’

Another major car dealer group boss said the claims were ‘all absolutely true’ and that Stellantis is ‘in a total mess’.

‘This used to be normal practice to register cars that hadn’t arrived, but you knew they’d be with you in three to five days,’ said the dealer.

‘But that’s simply not the case any more. You just don’t know when you’ll get the cars.’

Another dealer branded the whole debacle a ‘s**t show’. 

‘The conversations with customers are just embarrassing,’ they said. ‘We’re having to tell them that if they don’t agree to us registering the car they’ll potentially lose it completely.

‘Some of these customers have been waiting months for them, so they don’t want that. It’s terrible behaviour and not something we want to be doing.’

Stellantis is also said to be refusing to pay volume bonuses to its dealer partners if they don’t meet their demands.

‘It’s scandalous,’ said another car dealer boss that has a number of Stellantis brands in its portfolio.

‘We’ve been told we will lose allocation of cars if we don’t do what they ask, and they’ve threatened to remove bonuses if we don’t agree to their demands.’

Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car? and Autocar, told Car Dealer: ‘This smacks of arrogance in a market that is in a rare position of demand being greater than supply. 

‘With that equation set to change rapidly in coming months as supply opens up and demand lessens as the cost-of-living crisis bites, it will surely have longer-term consequences.

‘Stellantis needs to explain its actions. On the basis of what’s been exposed, it is acting with complete self-interest and to the detriment of dealers and – most crucially – customers.

‘Our advice to any customer being asked to pay up front for a car they haven’t received – and may not receive for three months or more – would be to walk away.

‘While that may put them at the back of the queue for another vehicle, it opens the door to buying from a company that respects its customers.’

A spokesperson for Stellantis said: ‘Vehicle production continues to be constrained due to Covid and component shortages across the industry. 

‘Our ability to satisfy the significant demand for our products is constrained leading to unprecedented lead times for our customers. More recently, the logistics sector in both the UK and across Europe is facing a shortage of drivers due to the war in Ukraine. 

‘This shortage continues to impact the production volume of the automotive industry compounded further by port congestion and railroad instability.

The consequence for our customers is that they have long waiting times and delivery date accuracy slipping. Facing this situation, we have taken various actions to ensure that customer orders are fulfilled as quickly as possible focussing on “first come, first served”.

‘Our focus has been to support these customers by increasing supply and pulling volume through the network at a faster rate.’

Update: Stellantis chief Paul Willcox speaks out after car dealers reveal firm’s ‘shocking behaviour’

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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