The automotive industry, after dealing with a semiconductor shortage crisis, faces a new challenge that is impacting sales and causing significant logistic hurdles: a shortage of car haulers to transport vehicles from ports to dealerships.
The surge in car imports from Asia, particularly China, has led to congested Pacific ports, such as Lázaro Cárdenas and Manzanillo. Consequently, there is a limited availability of trailers to transport vehicles to dealerships, hindering the smooth flow of operations.
In the past, most cars imported from the US or the EU arrived through the port of Veracruz or the northern border, resulting in a different distribution pattern. However, the influx of Asian vehicles has disrupted the logistics chain, creating a pressing issue for the industry.
Guillermo Rosales, Executive President, Mexican Association of Automotive Distributors (AMDA), highlights the critical situation faced by dealerships in obtaining specialized trailers for vehicle transportation. These car haulers are not manufactured domestically, leading to waiting periods of up to two years.
The scarcity of car haulers is not limited to Mexico alone but also affects the US, says Odracir Borquera, Director, Mexican Association of the Automotive Industry (AMIA). To mitigate the challenge automakers are exploring alternative options such as “burreo,” a process that involves unloading cars individually from ships. However, this workaround is not a sustainable solution, he adds.
Some companies are investing in alternative transportation methods, such as flatbed platforms or containers. However, these alternatives come with their own set of challenges, including differing dimensions for inspections.
The bottleneck lies not in the production of tractor trailers but in the specialized configuration of semi- trailers and trailers designed specifically for vehicle transportation, says Miguel Elizalde, President, National Association of Bus, Truck and Tractor Manufacturers (ANPACT).
The scarcity of car haulers is causing significant delays in delivering vehicles to dealerships, affecting prominent Asian brands such as Mitsubishi, Kia, Toyota and Honda. The delivery time frame has extended to as much as 45 days.
Ahkin Vázquez, CEO and President, Mitsubishi Motors, says that the port of Lázaro Cárdenas is inundated with vehicles, leaving no space to unload ships, load trailers and efficiently manage logistics chains. This congestion has resulted in a cascade of problems with trailers taking longer to enter and exit the port. In response to these challenges, Mitsubishi is considering establishing an office in Lázaro Cárdenas to engage with authorities and expedite the unloading of ships and the swift removal of vehicles from the port.
The scarcity of trailers and drivers has created a complicated situation impacting inventory levels at dealerships and potentially compromising commitments to customers. As the automotive industry grapples with the shortage of trailers and drivers, it is essential for manufacturers, distributors and port authorities to collaborate and develop innovative strategies to alleviate the logistical challenges.