CLEVELAND — Over the last 18 months, a shortage of computer chips has sent auto prices soaring and now a butterfly effect of the global parts shortage is taking aim at auto shops across the country.
Supplies like oil filters, air filters and even tires are running low, and mechanics are forced to pool their resources with their vendors to meet demand.
Jerry Knapp, owner of Knapp Automotive in Lakewood, said he tries to give his customers options if a part in need isn’t available. But it’s not just finding parts, it’s getting them to his shop. Something he could find locally and have in-house within a few hours now takes days. The turnaround is longer if he has to look outside of Northeast Ohio.
“A typical delay on a part from Chicago may be 1-2 days and now we're seeing maybe 1-2 weeks, sometimes longer.,” Knapp said. “Maybe the part that they want is going to be 3-4 days, I might be able to source it from another place. It might be a little it more expensive. But they’d be a blessing to get their car back the same day.”
It all circles back to the chip shortage. The shortfall caused automakers to slash production, which led to a surge in demand for used vehicles. That also means people are keeping vehicles longer, and those cars need repairs that are held up by delays in the supply chain.
“All of our vendors are having to buy from each other,” Knapp said. “I pull from about eight different vendors, and they’re all contacting each other and buying parts from each other because the parts shortage is that great”
Compounding the problem is price of shipping containers, which has gone through the roof. A typical container would cost $3,000 in a pre-pandemic economy, but now they’re fetching as much as $15,000. That cost is passed down the line, to eventually you, the customer.
“We’re seeing about a 10-15% increase on parts and some of these specialty parts are going up 30-40%,” Knapp said.
In the wake of the delays, mechanics are stressing now, more than ever, to stay on top of routine maintenance.
Dan Schneider runs Metro Toyota in Brook Park and said the automaker has parts stockpiled, but their delivery model has parts coming in with little time to spare.
“In our body shop it’s more of a 'just in time situation,' where parts are available just in time for us to put them on a vehicle. That’s the Toyota production system as well,” Schneider said. “When we see where it’s supposed to take 2-3 days to get a part put on a vehicle and it’s now taking 2-3 weeks, that’s just upsetting. We can’t deliver the car quick enough to the customer.”
Schneider said that plastics and glass are in short supply too, and that his dealership is hoping to fulfill back-ordered vehicles when Toyota begins ramping up production again in December. Back in August, semiconductors and other parts grew so dire that Toyota announced it would slash production.
“Toyota is very intelligent, and they’ve seen restraints like this in the past with other issues like tsunamis and recall issues— so they’ve stockpiled parts because they recognize that the ‘just in time’ is not always the best scenario,” he said.
As fuel prices also surge, routine jobs like oil changes could also start costing more.
“Oil prices are increasing, kind of the same thing with gas, we are a gas station as well,” Knapp said. “People might see oil changes stat creeping. Instead of a $29.99 oil change it might be $39.99.”
Even tires aren’t immune to the shortage, specifically any vehicles that require a special order or truck that needs an oversized shoe.
“A lot of our tires come from overseas. We have quite a few customers who have these big lift kits,” Knapp said. “I’m currently waiting for four months for two more tires.”
The bottom line, like anything else right now, is to expect to pay more and wait a while.
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