WASHINGTON -- Two months into the emissions cheating scandal that has sullied the Volkswagen brand, dealers are running into an unexpected challenge: They don't have enough vehicles to sell.
VW-brand supplies are at their lowest levels of the year, and dealers from Washington state to South Carolina say they have only a few -- and sometimes none -- of the most in-demand nameplates in stock.
Instead of seeing customers flee the brand in the wake of its emissions debacle, the VW brand posted flat year-over-year U.S. sales in October as demand for gasoline models surged amid heavy incentives, including a $2,000 loyalty discount for returning VW owners.
The deals helped VW offset the loss of diesel sales, which are frozen by the emissions-related stop-sale order. They also helped clean out much of VW's salable inventory.
Dealers say the factory incentives, bonus programs and other financial aid tools have kept them engaged, and they applauded the help from Volkswagen of America. In a sense, the diesel crisis has resulted in dealers receiving what they've sought for years: competitive pricing to go head-to-head with big players such as Honda, Ford and Nissan.
Still, the supply crunch comes just as VW begins its "Sign Then Drive" sales promotion, which runs through December, and it could undermine what historically are two of the brand's strongest months of the year.
"We had our best-ever October in terms of new VW sales, and just doing that with gas models and no TDIs in the mix left our shelves pretty thin going into November," said Marc White, vice president of Steve White VW-Audi in Greenville, S.C. "It's our No. 1 challenge between now and the end of the year: how to keep sales going with very low stock."