Cars Get Stuck at U.S. Garages for Weeks in Spare-Parts Shortage

Industry executives say that a global shortage of auto parts is prompting a scramble among U.S. repair shops to find replacements and hold up servicing of new cars.

This year, significant suppliers have cut shipments by 30 percent because of a shortage of components such as windshield wiper blades, brake pads, catalytic converter, and sensors that make vehicles more fuel-efficient. The reduced production has caused a supply crunch fed by dealers’ reluctance to purchase new cars amid a lingering glut from the record 17.5 million sold in 2016. According to repair shop owners, that’s creating delays of a day or two for repairs on existing cars, who are warning customers about the worsening situation.

Tightening credit markets and slowing vehicle sales are creating a perfect storm for auto parts suppliers by driving up demand and prices for used vehicles while cutting the production of new cars. In addition, the growing scarcity of replacement parts is creating delays at dealerships across the country. Auto mechanics are experiencing similar woes because they’re being asked to complete increasingly complicated repairs with components that require longer lead times to arrive.

Kelley said he was able to work around the part shortages by taking engines apart and re-engineering fixes on a couple of other trucks. But he said that was not an option with the third truck, which had a transmission problem. Instead, the owner opted to pay Kelley’s $400 labor fee and take the truck elsewhere because the shop couldn’t get the parts in time.

“I don’t know what his endgame was, but it wasn’t good,” Kelley said.

 The auto industry is one of the most reliable users of global supply chains. But as automakers have turned to Asia for more complex components like engine parts, they are now running into problems that affect everyone else.

In October alone, Ford Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Mazda Motor Corp., Chrysler Group LLC, and General Motors Corp. announced they would stop or slow production in North America. Chrysler said it would shut down three assembly plants — in Newark, Del.; Detroit; and Toluca Lake, Calif., — as it runs out of parts…

According to research firm IHS Markit, the global price of memory chips used in automotive electronics has jumped nearly 60 percent this year, forcing automakers to pay more for their cars while also paying more for parts. Kelley said that had led some people to scrap plans to trade in their old cars. Others are holding onto them while trying to figure out how long they can get by without spending money on repairs.

For now, with parts supplies remaining scarce and production cuts spreading, many dealers are nearly out of new vehicles. That’s forcing them to put customers into used cars instead, further lowering the supply of fresh models and driving up prices in the used-car market. “It’s affecting us,” said Bill Fox, owner of Fox Toyota Scion in Kansas City, Mo. “We’ve been looking for cars from February to June.”

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