A global semiconductor shortage has reduced new car production and boosted used car demand. The average used car age on U.S. highways hit 12.1 this year, a record high, and has unleashed a repair boom. But with snarled supply chains, auto repair shops have had difficulty sourcing parts and told customers their cars could take weeks to fix, according to Bloomberg.
Paul McCarthy, chief executive of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, said that auto parts and repair industry is getting slammed like everyone else - delays stretching from weeks due to port congestion have produced hefty backlogs.
"This is the most difficult supply-chain environment that I have ever seen," AutoZone Inc. CEO William Rhodes said in a September earnings call. AutoZone is operating at "the lowest level of in-stock that I can ever remember," he said.
For repair shops, breaking the news to customers that their broken cars might not be fixed for weeks because of a part of backorder has been difficult.
Bryan Kelley, the owner of Valley Automotive Repair and Electric, had to wait months for parts in the Seattle suburbs. He said a crankshaft position sensor took between 60-90 days to arrive, adding that the sensors used to take less than a day in pre-COVID times.
Kelley said one customer was about to give up on fixing his Dodge Ram 1500 because of the sensor backlog.
"He went as far as to say, 'I'm going to tow it and buy another truck,'" said Kelley, who's also chairman of the Automotive Service Association Northwest trade group. "It got compounded when he found he couldn't just go down and buy one."
Another instance is in the Philadelphia suburbs, where Matlock's Nissan Sentra flooded during Hurricane Ida in early September. The storm left her car's interior moist. She took her car to Colket Technical Services in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, for new carpets, but mechanics told her no carpet sets were available. The workaround the mechanics advised her to do was rip up the old carpet and have it professionally cleaned, then reinstalled.
In Bethesda, Maryland, River Road Auto Service manager Danny Tomasian said even "oil filters are becoming harder to get, so when I buy them, I buy them in as big of quantities I can get."
Compounding a repair boom with port congestion across China and U.S. adds to domestic shortages of parts and increased prices.
McCarthy of the suppliers association warned the shortage of aftermarket parts could get worse into next year.
Colket, the Philadelphia-area garage owner, called the shortage of parts and persistent delays: "We lovingly refer to it as an intergalactic backorder."
... and it's not just sensors and oil filters that are becoming harder to find. Some tires have been in short supply that takes well over a month to receive.