Thousands of disabled customers of the Motability scheme are facing many months of delays before they can take delivery of the vehicles they ordered, because of problems in the global car industry.
Many disabled customers are even being told that the cars they ordered months ago through the disabled people’s car scheme are now no longer available.
Motability* has admitted that some models are being removed from the scheme at short notice, while it has also told customers that many advance payments have increased, adding to the cost-of-living crisis many disabled people are facing.
Some customers appear to be waiting up to a year to take delivery of the cars they ordered, although Motability Operations, which runs the scheme, has said delays vary according to different manufacturers and models.
Motability Operations told Disability News Service (DNS) this afternoon (Thursday) that “thousands of Motability scheme customers are affected by the vehicle supply and delivery delays”.
It told customers earlier this week: “Although we are working hard to keep the scheme as affordable as possible, you may notice that there are fewer cars available than in previous years and in many cases, advance payments are higher than you may be used to.
“Vehicles are also being removed from the scheme at short notice at the request of manufacturers and dealers are often struggling to get reliable information on delivery dates due to the various factors affecting new car supply.”
Motability is due to hold a live Facebook question and answer session about the delays tomorrow.
It says the key issue affecting delays is a worldwide shortage of semiconductor chips, expected to last until the end of 2022, with factories also affected by staffing shortages linked to the Covid pandemic.
DNS had been contacted this week by Michelle Maher, a leading disabled activist and a long-term Motability customer.
She had been waiting since last November for the Mini Countryman she ordered through the scheme.
Like other Motability customers, the higher rate mobility support she receives through personal independence payment is used to cover the monthly lease payments and other costs associated with leasing a car.
She made a £1,749 advance payment, which was matched by the charity, when she took delivery of a Mini Countryman last November.
But she soon realised that the car did not have the electric wing-mirrors she needed, and she paid a £250 administration fee to place an order for a slightly more expensive model.
She needs electric wing-mirrors because she lives on a road in Brighton that is so congested with parked cars that she needs to close them every time she drives along the road, and she has a progressive myopathy that makes this increasingly difficult.
After a nine-month wait, she was finally told last week that the car had been delivered to her local dealership, but that she would not be allowed to collect it.
Maher, co-founder of the WOWcampaign, said the car dealership, Mini and Motability had all blamed each other for this decision not to allow her to collect the car.
She has been told by a Motability adviser that thousands of other customers have had problems with their orders.
She said: “I think Motability have dealt with it horrendously. They have sent me around in circles.”
She said Motability had failed to communicate with its customers about what was happening.
Although she said both Motability and Mini warned customers last summer to order their cars early because of delays, she said the communication this year had been non-existent.
She said: “No-one sent me a letter saying, ‘I’m sorry, the car you ordered is not going to be available anymore.’
“Why aren’t they writing to people? I only heard about this when my car arrived.”
She was told yesterday, less than a day after DNS raised her case with Motability, that she would now be able to take delivery of the car.
A Motability Operations spokesperson said: “The global automotive industry is impacted by shortages of key components, and this is causing delays in delivering vehicles.
“Whilst it’s difficult to know when the situation will improve, experts predict it will continue for the rest of the year.
“Due to the global manufacturing and supply challenges, some people who have ordered a new car, including Motability scheme customers, are having their orders amended, as manufacturers are no longer able to supply the specification of the vehicle.
“This might be because the product offer has changed from the time the customer placed their original order with the dealer.
“A small number of Motability scheme customers are impacted by this.
“Motability Operations works hard alongside manufacturers to minimise the knock-on effect to our customers.”
She said that Motability provided regular emails, social media question-and-answer sessions, and updates on its website to keep customers informed.
She added: “We are also auto extending existing vehicle leases where we are unable to provide a new car to our customers, so they remain mobile.”
A spokesperson for BMW, which owns the Mini brand, said: “We’re sorry to hear about these issues within the Motability scheme.
“Like most car manufacturers, we have been forced to restrict the production of certain models due to well-publicised, industry-wide parts supply constraints.
“Specifically this has stemmed from the war in Ukraine, which is a significant supplier of automotive components, and the worldwide shortage of semiconductors.
“Naturally this restriction of production had an impact on delivery dates.
“The average lead time for built-to-order Mini models has reduced in recent weeks and is now approximately three months, although this will vary by model and by retailer.”
*The charity Motability, which oversees the work of Motability Operations, is a subscriber to Disability News Service
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