Auto parts shortages are driving repair shops to get creative and “stress” customers
Two months after his 2015 GMC Acadia was T-boned, John Sellek remains carless.
Sellek, of Brighton, Mich., Has been using rentals since the Oct. 28 crash, but their rental insurance is now in effect. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars every week, Sellek and his wife decided to share a vehicle.
“I could never have imagined it would last so long that my insurance would run out,” he said.
Accidents happen. But when it does happen these days, it takes weeks, if not months, for bodybuilders and dealerships to get the parts they need to fix the vehicle, leaving customers like Sellek without the wheels they need. The wait is another example of how the pandemic threw a wrench into the supply chain system and forced repair shops and parts distributors to get creative with temporary solutions and find new suppliers to help customers get back on the road.
“It’s been incredibly revealing because we all know about the supply chain issues around the world,” Sellek said. “We know that when I ordered something from Ikea, it took literally five months for it to appear. We know and understand that all of these things happen, but there are ways it’s ubiquitous in areas you wouldn’t suspect that have a more direct impact on your life.
Some auto parts suppliers have had to slow down the manufacturing of parts for older vehicles in order to get more parts for newer vehicles. A labor shortage has further slowed the churn rate at factories and at the ports and docks where supplies are offloaded.
“A significant portion of the spare parts, especially for crashes, are sourced from Taiwan,” said Dan Hearsch, general manager of automotive and manufacturing practice at AlixPartners. “A lot of this data is backed up in ports, so the availability of this stuff is not great. “
The bigger problem is that auto suppliers are less focused on making aftermarket parts for on-road vehicle repairs and more focused on making parts for new vehicles, Hearsch added. “The last thing they want or need to make are spare parts, because spare parts have a whole new level of complexity. “
The situation is not improving, Hearsch said, as the focus remains on relaunching production of new vehicles. Over the past year, automakers have struggled to keep up with demand due to the global shortage of semiconductors or microchips used to power vehicle systems, from heated seats to infotainment systems.
Dave Hebert, director of Berkley Collision in Berkley, Michigan, had to get creative with parts to keep his customers on the road. Instead of relying only on new parts, the shop sometimes found rebuilt and remanufactured parts to fix people’s vehicles faster.
“But unfortunately the parts that we can’t buy new, the supplies from other directions, have now gone down,” he said.
Hebert has worked on vehicles for at least 40 years and can recall when a part or two is low in stock, but said he has never encountered a problem affecting so many parts at once. He also sees that the situation is worsening due to the low stock which now appears in the offer of “alternative parts”.
Hebert’s advice for customers who have been in an accident and need repairs: “Check carefully that all parts are available before returning the car for repair. “
Supply problems have led to price increases. The consumer price index for motor vehicle parts rose 10% from November 2020 to November 2021, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“There has been absolutely inflation in this industry,” said Paul McCarthy, president of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association. “In fact, we have tried to pass on cost increases as much as possible. “
Advance Auto Parts has seen price increases in the costs of its products and has worked with suppliers to get the lowest price, said CFO Jeff Shepherd: “But this industry is pretty rational and, if necessary, we had to pass it on in the form of a prize. “
Amid the suffocation of the supply chain, Advance – with more than 4,700 stores and 234 Worldpac branches – again recorded a 13% increase in sales in the third quarter from pre-pandemic levels. 2019.
To keep shelves fully stocked, Advance worked with vendors starting last year to purchase more product than the company normally would to make sure they had enough. Advance also rolled out a new tool that tells merchant teams which parts to buy and which stores need them.
“What we’ve tried to do is make sure we focus on the parts where you don’t have a choice,” Shepherd said. “If you have a Ford F-150 and you need brakes, you can’t put Honda Accord brakes on a Ford F-150.”