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Beware of the waiting lists facing many popular new cars

Buying the most popular cars can be a a waiting list trap.

Some models — and intending buyers — are victims of their own success. Can you wait two years?

If you want a Ford Ranger Wildtrak you need to be patient.

It's the same story for everything from the Hyundai iLoad van to the Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV, the born-again Ford Mustang, the pocket rocket BMW M2 and the exotic Ferrari 488 Spider.

There are waiting lists for all of them, ranging from three months to nearly two years. And they are not the only ones.

Ford ran short of XR cars long before the final production roster was set for the Falcon factory at Broadmeadows. Overwhelming demand also means the Subaru SUV family is now in tight supply with delays of up to three months. Some Skoda models including the Fabia RS are sold out long before the boats arrive from Europe.

Showrooms might be flooded with base-model price fighters but popular upscale cars — and even the sporty versions of family brands — are in short supply.

The Ranger Wildtrak is one of the best examples. It might cost nearly $60,000 but it has become an iconic choice as Ford Australia morphs from the Falcon car company to Ranger Inc. It's almost a born-again Falcon GT for some people, and much more for play than work.

But it's not the only sellout success at Ford, as the wait for a new-age Mustang muscle car is still well over a year, having peaked at more than 18 months.

Ford Australia has been so overwhelmed on a number of fronts that it has set up a tracking system for buyers to follow their cars from the initial order to delivery day at their local dealer.

"At key milestones — pre-build, start of build and so on — customers are informed, via email, that this step has been achieved," says Ford spokesman Damion Smy.

"Then an estimated time of arrival is ... determined by the average time from this point to the end."

It's not just fast cars and upscale choices (that require long waiting times).

There is a hitch and it's a big one for a lot of Mustang buyers.

"It's not until the factory has determined production and assigned a specific vehicle that a customer will be able to track their car," Smy says.

In some cases that can take months but it's not just Ford and the Mustang. Supplies of the rampaging BMW M2 are so short that BMW Australia is not making any promises on delivery times. The M2s built for the first half of 2017 have yet to be matched with customer names from the waiting list.

At Mercedes-Benz, the mid-sized GLC SUV has created a sensation in Australia with a significant waiting list, currently up to six months.

But it's not just fast cars and upscale choices, as Hyundai proves with its iLoad van.

"Supply of the iLoad is very tight and there are some delays. That's because it is built on the same production line as the Santa Fe, which is one of our most popular models," says Hyundai Australia spokesman Bill Thomas.

Skoda is still battling for traction with Australian buyers, who are mostly not aware that it's part of the Volkswagen Group, but some cars have hit the right note.

"Fabia is a bit of a segment buster, so there are (forward orders) for that car. It's the same for the Superb," says Skoda spokesman Paul Pottinger.

"Everyone wants all the option packs. With the Superb, they want a Christmas tree with all the baubles.

"We also anticipated the wagon would be 70 per cent of sales but the sedan(accounts for) up to 50 per cent because the new model looks a lot better."

At Subaru, which is aiming for a new sales record in 2016, the wait depends on the model and the dealer.

"If you're after a specific colour and trim they may have it but it may also be a three-month wait," says Subaru managing director Nick Senior. "Our order banks are strongest on Outback, Forester and XV. So it's the three SUVs.

"But it varies from dealer to dealer, region to region, on the timing."

For Subaru shoppers, Senior has some good news on getting the right car at the right place and time.

"If a customer walks into a dealership and they don't have the exact car they want, dealers are able to do swaps, right throughout Australia, to try and get customers into cars as soon as possible.

"We try to help source cars for customers. We encourage swaps at the national and regional levels. We have a couple of people working on this almost full-time."

When it comes to waiting lists, no one tops Ferrari. A long-term company policy of building one car fewer than the company can sell, and the quality of its current line-up, means super-long lead times for owners.

But Ferrari buyers are well treated while they're waiting.

"For the 488 Coupe and Spider, on average, it's about one-and-a-half years, but it can stretch out to two years," says Ferrari Australia boss Herbert Appleroth.

"The F12 is well into next year, so that's well over six months. The California convertible is over six months too, so that's a problem for us. It's the car that people come to from other brands.

"These are people who are not used to waiting, so it is a bit of a problem. We're doing the best we can to get more cars here in Australia."

But Ferrari buyers are well treated while they're waiting, with among other things an exact scale replica of their coming car — down to body colour, interior trim and the chassis number — as a pre-delivery gift.

They also get an individual landing page on the company's website, so they can track progress.

Cashed-up Ferrari buyers are often able to make things even more special.

"We're doing the best we can to get more cars here," Appleroth says. "We encourage our customers to have a Ferrari experience.

"Over 250 buyers from Australia go to Maranello every year — that's a huge number. Everyone can see their car being built.

"Even if they cannot attend they can see it over the web on their landing page.

"It's the same as a baby. Nine-month gestation, then being born, it's a similar process."

How to beat the waiting lists

1 - Buy from the floor

If the model you want is in stock, move quickly and crunch a deal. More importantly, ask if they have a registered demonstrator because there are always deals on cars which have been pre-registered to get bonuses from head office.

2 - Compromise on colour and equipment

If getting exactly what you want means a waiting list, consider a different colour or trim to get something already in stock. It's the same story for optional equipment, which can add months for a special build at an overseas factory.

3 - Get the dealer to shop around

Just because your local dealer doesn't have a car doesn't mean there isn't one. They can always check throughout their networks and track down your choice, even if it means a little extra on shipping costs.

4 - Use the telephone

If you know what you want, call around — locally and interstate — to get it. Many dealers are prepared to organise a delivery away from their home base and you could get a better price on something they have in stock.

5 - Hustle, hustle, hustle

Don't just sit and wait for an update, be proactive and chase your dealer. Don't stop at the sales staff, either, make sure the sales manager and the dealer principal also know who you are and what you want.

Biding their time

John, from Sydney, is red-hot keen on a BMW M2. But he has run into all sorts of trouble on delivery dates, even after paying a cash deposit.

"The dealer can't confirm dates. Or even that I'm actually going to get a car," he says.

Having approached another dealer and talked to BMW Australia, he discovered there are so many M2 orders that the local HQ is allocating to dealers only when it gets confirmation from Germany on the exact numbers being built for Australia and their shipping date.

So John must wait. With his fingers crossed.

Tomas, from Melbourne, thinks the Mercedes-Benz GLC will be ideal for his family.

But the variant and colour and trim combination he wants is one of the most popular.

"I've been told that it will probably be March next year, or even later," he says.

Yet by spending a little more, he can leap into the new GLC Coupe instead of the wagon, as there are cars in floor stocks at some dealers. "Now I'm not sure. I might even decide to get a C-Class Coupe instead," he says.

Queenslander Derek is a long-time ute buyer who likes the look of the Ford Ranger Wildtrak.

"I'm a painter so I need a ute for work, but I also like to drive. I've had a couple of Falcon XR utes," he says. "At the moment I'm driving a Ranger, but I'm thinking about moving up to the Wildtrak."

But the waiting list is putting him off and there is a big outlay with no delivery guarantee.

"Dealers around my way are not particularly helpful. It seems like they can sell every Wildtrak they get without doing any work," he says.

Would you wait up to 2 years for a new car? Let us know in the comments below.

Paul Gover
Paul Gover is a former CarsGuide contributor. During decades of experience as a motoring journalist, he has acted as chief reporter of News Corp Australia. Paul is an all-round automotive expert and specialises in motorsport.
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