Supply chain issues putting the brakes on car repairs in Saskatoon

Click to play video: 'Waiting For Car Parts'
Waiting For Car Parts
The pandemic and supply chain issues are putting the brakes on car repairs. Those in the industry say a catch-up may take years – Aug 18, 2022

It’s a pit-stop longer than some people may have hoped for.

Managing Partner of Parr Auto Body in Saskatoon, Chelsea Stebner, says some vehicles in their shop are still waiting for certain parts six months later.

“It’s challenging for our team as well, because you can imagine disassembling a vehicle six months ago, and then going back to do a reassembly or start the repair six months later. So we’re often reading repair procedures over and over again.”

For what parts exactly, Stebner says it’s a multitude of shortages.

“Plastics, things like that … with all sheet metal; we’re seeing shortages with glass. I know there was also a shortage of clear coat for refinishing for quite some time as well.”

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“The chip issue is an issue for us too,” adds Stebner, referring to the semiconductor chip shortage, “which just in turn creates all sorts of other challenges throughout the repair process.”

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The COVID-19 pandemic is a major culprit for the delays. Stebner says she first noticed longer arrival times about a year ago, but it has amplified over the past six months.

“We’re seeing the results now. So when everybody says we’re getting back to normal, in our industry, we’re far from normal.”

Paul Amante, a business student at the University of Saskatchewan, is one of several who has had to deal with being without his vehicle for an extended period of time. It was in the shop for more than two months between Feb. 17 and April 22 this year, before being ready to hit the road again.

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“I kept getting dates of next week,” began Amante. “Next week comes and I call and they say ‘oh next week.’ That week comes and I call and it’s like ‘oh we still don’t have that part. It was quite the frustrating two months,” he said, adding he understands it wasn’t Parr Auto Body’s fault.

He lives on the outskirts of Saskatoon and says public transit was not an option for him.

“No buses come through here. The closest bus stop to me would be a 45-minute walk away.”

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Frustration is something Stebner understands when it comes to her customers.

“Getting in an accident is certainly not anybody’s favourite thing in the world. So we’re that inconvenience right, we’re that grudge purchase. Nobody wants to come to an autobody shop in the first place,” she says.

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SGI says within Saskatchewan they have many agreements with various suppliers around car rentals.

“Part of that is to ensure that those suppliers are able to maintain a fleet of vehicles available to our customers in the event they have an accident, and would need some loss-of-use coverage.” says Ciaran Downes, senior director of national appraisals for SGI.

“We’ve certainly seen that our length of rentals has actually increased as body shops can struggle to source parts to complete a repair, and that can lead to extended repair times, resulting in customers being in rental cars longer than typical.”

SGI is working to identify trends in parts that typically take longer than others.

“It seems to be affecting all manufactures and all types of parts,” starts Downes. “We have instances where we’re able to get access to 90 per cent of parts required to complete the repair but there’s one bracket that’s kind of a key component that seems to hold up other parts. If you’re missing that one, it can basically hold up the whole repair.”

While SGI claims they haven’t experienced a shortage in rental vehicles, the pandemic changed some rental car companies.

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“Rental companies have also downsized their fleets over the pandemic and now rental cars are part of that shortage in the automotive industry,” says Stebner.

As for how long the automotive industry can expect this issue to persist, Stebner figures it could be at least two years before things return to normal.

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