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What is a factory order car?

January 12, 2024 by

All cars are ordered from a factory, but a ‘factory order’ is a car tailor-made to your precise requirements; we explain the ins and outs. And when you’re ready to factory order your new car, Carwow can help you get the best price, so take a look at our new car configurator.

Every mass-produced car is built in a factory, and all cars are built following an order from a car company’s office, but the term ‘factory order’ refers to a specific type of order, where a customer’s (IE someone like you) specific requirements are passed on to the factory so that the perfect car for that individual can be built.

This is opposed to the standard method of building cars, which sees manufacturers predict what engines, trim levels, colours and options will be in demand, building multiple models of each vehicle.

What is a factory order?

As mentioned above, a factory order refers to a car that has been built to a customer’s precise specifications.

Car companies build ‘stock’ cars as a matter of routine, manufacturing popular variants of cars based on past and predicted customer tastes, and selling these to dealers who will retail them to customers.

But while that approach will work for most people, not everyone will be happy with a car that is specified in that manner.

You may, for example, want a special paint finish that is offered in a car’s brochure, but is not popular enough to be applied to stock cars. Or perhaps you want some optional extras that are not commonly specified, or a powerful engine in combination with a comfort-oriented trim level. Specifications such as these can mean you will require a factory order if you are not happy compromising with a stock car.

How long will I have to wait for a factory order?

In times gone by a rule of thumb was that a factory order would take 12 weeks or so to arrive, though this could vary to a fair degree, with high-end, low-volume models often taking much longer, for example, while cars that are built in Japan could also take longer to get here due to fact shipping alone can take a month.

Today, however, the global semiconductor shortage means lead times for factory orders have in many cases increased significantly, with some models taking up to and over a year to be built – though this is at the longer end of the scale, and more cars are in the 20-30 week window.

Indeed, due to the unique circumstances currently present in the car industry, in many instances deliveries of new vehicles to dealers fulfil existing orders, and customers who have been waiting some time for their car, even if it was a model that might have been a stock order in previous years.

Furthermore, many car makers have streamlined their configurators and option specifications, often bundling features together more than they would otherwise have done, or removing features from the options list altogether.

Our handy guide on wait times for specific cars has more information.

Is there a way to get a factory order car faster?

Factory orders are allocated build slots with factories – specific timeframes when they are built. It is possible, however, that a third-party supplier to the car maker (for example the firm that makes the panoramic sunroof for them) is experiencing delays, with this factored in to a factory order’s build slot. For this reason, cars with a large number of options can have longer lead times.

You may be able to take someone else’s build slot if they cancel their order, though this will depend on how many other people are, like you, waiting in the wings. Impatient buyers of high-end cars may also be able to buy an earlier build slot from another buyer.

Can I change the spec of a factory order car?

Maybe. You might be able to change one or two aspects without too much hassle, but the complexity of modern car manufacturing and the need for parts and other items to be ordered in advance from third-party suppliers may mean your order is ‘baked in’ some time before the car is built.

What are my other options?

Well, you may be happy with a stock car a dealer has, or you could also consider buying a pre-registered model if you don’t mind being the second owner of a vehicle.

As ever, the used market is available to you, while you could also consider leasing a car instead of buying one, as lease vehicles tend to be available for immediate delivery.

I’ve ordered a car but want to change the spec

Then do so as quickly as possible after you’ve placed the order to retain your build slot. You’re unlikely to be able to completely change the car, but it may be possible to switch the colour, engine and options. The later you leave it, the fewer changes you’ll be able to make and there will come a point at which your car’s spec is locked in and can’t be altered.

If you’re willing to give up your existing build slot, big changes to your order should be possible.

Why are car manufacturers so restrictive on changes?

The modern car is one of the most complex manufactured goods in history, containing thousands of parts. Those parts are made by hundreds of suppliers around the world and are delivered to the car factory just as they’re needed on the production line, usually having been ordered months in advance according to predicted demand.

Lining that chain up so the right parts are put on the right car is a complicated process and even a small change to the specification of a single car can disrupt the whole chain in a big way. Hundreds or even thousands of cars might have to be built in a different order to accommodate the change, which takes a huge amount of time and money to sort out.

Car manufacturers try to be as accommodating as possible to their customers’ needs but they have to draw the line somewhere.

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