Australians who have already waited months for new cars in the midst of a global parts shortage may have to wait even longer, as cargo vessels are fumigated off-shore to kill an invasive stink bug.
- The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive species that hides in cargo vessels
- Each year the federal biosecurity department works to fumigate vessels
- This year, fumigation delays could lead to a longer wait for new cars to arrive
Brown marmorated stink bug season runs from September to April, meaning tighter biosecurity rules apply to vessels and goods from countries that have already been invaded by the pest, including the US and countries throughout Asia and Europe.
Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment biosecurity head Andrew Tongue said the bug would have a “devastating effect” on Australia’s agriculture if it arrived here due to its ability to consume crops.
“They opportunistically use cargo containers and freight vehicles to hitchhike across continents and oceans,” Mr Tongue said.
The bug can hide in large numbers in buildings and equipment for months in a dormant state, before emerging in warmer temperatures to cause havoc.
True to their name, the bugs emit a foul smell when disturbed or crushed.
Last year, 232 brown marmorated stink bug detections were made on vessels and goods arriving in Australia.
Delays for new car orders
Drive.com.au national motoring editor Joshua Dowling told ABC Radio Brisbane the additional delays meant customers could wait weeks longer for new cars.
“It usually adds a delay of about four weeks.”
The stink bug problem compounds global vehicle manufacturing chain woes, after car companies paused or downsized their semiconductor chip orders in the early months of the pandemic.
“Most modern cars have between 300 and 3,000 semiconductors. Semiconductors take 26 weeks, or half a year, to build from scratch,” Mr Dowling said.
When the global economy picked up faster than expected, car companies tried to increase their orders, but chip manufacturers had switched to producing mobile phones and laptops.
Two weeks ago, Toyota Australia vice president for sales Sean Hanley announced further reductions to production forecasts at its plants in Japan.
“In Australia, average wait times vary by model and by grade. For one-third of Toyota’s vehicles, the wait time is four months or less,” Mr Hanley said.
Wait times of nearly a year are being experienced for the LandCruiser 70 Series and Rav4 Hybrid, while HiLux ute production was also reduced in October.
The anticipated release of Toyota’s LandCruiser 300 model was also delayed as the factory could not produce any right-hand-drive models in September and October.
Car orders increase
But the delays have not stopped Australians from buying new cars, with purchases growing 21 per cent for the month of September compared to the previous year.
Federal Chamber of Automotive Industry figures show Australians purchased 83,312 new cars in September, despite the semiconductor chip shortages.
“To see an increase of 21 per cent on 2020 figures is definitely encouraging news,” chamber chief executive Tony Weber said.
“Brands are working across their supply chains to deal with microprocessor issues and consumers are embracing online purchasing through click-and-collect delivery options.”
Mr Dowling said the lack of supply meant the near-new or dealer used-car sales market had “evaporated” and contributed to a bump of between 5 and 10 per cent on second-hand car prices during the pandemic.
“That’s why a lot of people in the industry are saying … if you do want to get a car, it is worthwhile considering getting in the queue,” he said.