DETROIT — When Abhijeet Koli, a 34-year-old cardiologist, was preparing to relocate from Chicago to Honolulu a couple of months ago, he needed to buy a car. But he couldn't find the 2011 Audi A5 luxury sports coupe he wanted in either city. A dealer told him he'd have to wait three or four months.
However, after searching online and talking to dealers nationwide, he located the car he wanted — at a dealership in San Antonio. For $43,000, plus $1,600 for transportation, he bought the car and had it shipped to Hawaii within about 10 days.
It's not just Chicago and Honolulu where the A5 is in short supply. All over the country, the 2011 A5 is hard to find, spending an average of just 19 days on dealer lots before being sold. The Audi S5, the high-performance version of the sleek and sexy A5, is even more precious, flying off dealer lots after an average of just 12 days in inventory.
Most cars spend an average of 51 days in dealerships before they are sold, according to Edmunds.com, "days to turn" in industry parlance.
The 2011 model year officially began on Oct. 1. But for various reasons — unusually high demand, constrained production capacity or just odd timing of model changeovers — certain 2011 model cars are hard to find right now.
Crossovers — vehicles that combine the look and features of a sport utility with the driving dynamics of a sedan — are the fastest-growing segment in the market, so it's no wonder they spend the shortest amount of time in dealer inventory. Eight of the 10 vehicles that are hardest to find for the new model year are crossovers, including the car spending the shortest amount of time on dealer lots: the 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe. It sits for an average of just seven days before getting snapped up.
"Some vehicles are relatively new, so there are just not a lot of them out there right now," explains Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst at Edmunds.com. The Nissan Juke, for example, is a new model that went on sale in October. It's a small, motorsports-inspired crossover priced around $19,000. But good luck finding one, especially if you're picky about color or features. Edmunds.com says the Juke is selling quickly, usually within 10 days of arriving at dealerships.
New models are often in short supply, as manufacturers learn new assembly processes and pay extra attention to quality while slowly ramping up production.
Mitsubishi dealers are having trouble keeping the all-new Outlander Sport in stock. It's a slightly smaller version of Mitsubishi's top-of-the-line Outlander crossover vehicle, and comes with a more fuel-efficient engine and seating for five instead of seven. It's priced between $19,000 and $24,000. If you find one, be prepared to act. The average Outlander Sport sells in just nine days.
© 2012 Forbes.com