Vince's GM Center is not going out of business. But the dealership's lot in eastern Colorado is so abnormally sparse that some customers have assumed that it is.

With assembly lines at many North American factories halted because they can't get enough microchips, and demand for new vehicles booming again, Vince Schreivogel is one of many dealers across the country disconcertingly watching their inventory wither away.

"At first, [customers] couldn't believe we couldn't get stuff, but then it came into reality where they went online and nobody else has it either," said Schreivogel, who had fewer than 20 new vehicles in stock last week.

It's an awful time for dealers to be running short. The U.S. economy is making a comeback, and consumers are flush with tax refunds and another round of stimulus checks. Americans who have stayed away from dealerships for a year are getting vaccinated.

The spring selling season is heating up — so much so that one forecaster says the industry could have its strongest sales rate in nearly four years this month. That is, unless too many shoppers give up because they can't find what they want.

"There's a real shortage as we speak," said Charlie Gilchrist, president of Gilchrist Automotive in Texas. "Really and truly, by the end of the month, if the demand keeps up, most dealers that I've talked to down here will be almost out of inventory."

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