You would think that it's not that complicated. When consumers want a particular vehicle model from a new car dealer the next question should be: 'What color would you like?'
But some automakers --Ford, Subaru, Honda, Toyota -- are claiming they have shortages in some of their most popular models, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But is that for real, or is it just smoke and mirrors? For consumers, 'limited supplies' of popular models mean bargain prices are harder to come by, even during the annual summer clearance sales.
WSJ's report says the appearance of spot shortages signals a new phase for the U.S. auto industry's recovery. Over the past three years, as sales rose from the bottom of their 2009 trough, car makers have had little trouble keeping the market supplied, even as more and more shoppers streamed into showrooms.
Now, they are facing a delicate balancing act as supply and demand converge. Expanding plants is expensive and can backfire if sales growth slows. But tight inventories can temper an auto maker's growth by nudging prices higher and causing shoppers to turn to competitors.
"Manufacturers are in a precarious situation," said Karl Brauer, a senior director at Kelley Blue Book, which provides auto sales data for dealers and car buyers.
"The shortages we're seeing now aren't yet severe, but [car makers] have to predict where they are going to be six to 18 months from now."
At Silko Honda in Raynham, Mass., Adam Silverleib began August with only enough Accords and Civics to last about half the month. He has been resupplied to keep sales rolling, and even the last of his 2013 models are now being snapped up.
Ford is feeling pinched by shortages of its Fusion after an impressive redesign. The car's sales are up 13.4% so far this year. Ford is struggling to make enough of them, and in July Fusion sales fell 12%. The company warned the issue will linger for another couple months, too.
"We could have sold more if we had more," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's group vice president of the Americas.
The combination of strong demand and tight supplies is pushing up Fusion prices. In July, Fusions on average sold for $26,137, 13% more than a year ago, according to TrueCar, an auto shopping website. Likewise, Accord and Sentra prices are up 5.4% and 2.2%, respectively.
According to dealers, other cars in tight supply include the Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Impala, Honda Odyssey, and Subaru Forester.
Have you encountered any 'shortages' of vehicles you might be considering? And if you went ahead and bought your next best choice, what vehicle was your 'Plan B' and are you happy with your purchase? Let us know!