Supply Chain Strain; Supply chain woes affecting auto shops big and small

Ty Moran of Smith’s Garage looks at a hub assembly in for repairs. Moran said they are utilizing many sources to get parts and haven’t been affected by long lead times like those whom depend on OEM parts only. Photo by Kayne Martin

Kayne Martin | Reporter
For a last minute vacation this past summer, I took the family to Hot Springs for a long weekend getaway. We spent some time on Lake Ouachita and braved the crowds at Magic Springs. We had a great time and so did the friends that joined us for the trip….until their ride home. Right out the gate on the journey home, our friends experienced a small fender bender. Nothing major. No one got hurt and his damaged truck was almost drivable – although it did end up getting towed. No big deal, right?
Wrong! The truck was stuck for a while at the body shop waiting on parts. In this case, the airbags. I set out to see if shops of all kinds were having trouble like this. The results of that small investigation are a little mixed.

This article published in the Jan. 8, 2022, print edition

“I have one customer who has been waiting on floor mats for 4-5 months,” says Adam Perritt, General Manager for Legacy Dodge. Perritt assured me this was a bit of a special case and not all customers are experiencing such long lead times on floor mats. “The long lead times can be for many different types of car parts but it’s mostly major components, like engines and transmissions that have the longest waits,” especially OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts, which Legacy deals with the most. Understandably, most auto manufacturers want to make repairs with their own OEM parts, but those seem to be the toughest to get.
Not all shops are experiencing extremely long lead times. Ty Moran of Smith’s Garage said, “We have so many different sources to get our parts. We have all of the different parts houses and I can always fall back to ordering on the internet.”
At least in Natchitoches, the smaller shops seem to be keeping up with demand for their services. Jim Poche of Poche’s Performance Collision has been keeping up with demand as well. “We haven’t experienced many back orders for any of our repairs yet,” he said.
Why are the smaller shops not experiencing the same squeeze as the larger dealerships? Perhaps the higher volume of vehicles the dealership deals with leaves open more opportunity for shortages. Maybe Smith’s and Poche’s are just outlier data points and many other smaller shops are struggling. Regardless, a quick Google search definitely confirms an auto parts shortage nationwide.
We all know about the semiconductor shortage for automobile production. The “chip” shortage has caused new vehicle production to slump. Coincidentally, the lack of new autos has forced more drivers to keep their older vehicles running. In turn, this has forced more car owners to seek more repairs to keep themselves on the road and not resort to saddling the horse. Coupled with supply chain strains, this has caused shortages for some car parts.
Back to my last minute vacation and my friend’s newly acquired fender bender…four months. That’s how long he waited to get his floor mats….I mean air bags. Luckily, he and his wife borrowed a vehicle while they “ever so patiently” waited for the shop to make the repairs. However, not everyone has the resources to borrow a car for four months.
The strains of the auto parts supply chain have put great amounts of pressure on many. Is there any end in sight for these supply chain issues?
Perritt said he “doesn’t see any of this changing in at least the next year or two.”
As for most of us, I know we are all hoping to get back in the seat of what was “normal” before this pandemic began. Sadly, that seat might be in the cab of a 2006 recently repaired Toyota and not in that shiny new 2022 Jeep. Hopefully, the road that old clunker travels is the path back to “normal.”