Recently, with the increase in inflation, issues with the global automobile part supply chain, and the current state of the used car market, Acuity reached out to local automotive repair facilities asking if they could share their firsthand knowledge regarding the climate of today’s auto repair market.
Please provide a brief background of your business, including the makes of vehicles you typically repair.
Dean’s: Dean’s Auto Body has been in business for over 54 years. We are a family-owned, second-generation company. As a family-owned business, our mission is to be your #1 collision repair facility—to provide you with outstanding customer care as we honestly and ethically repair your vehicle using environmentally friendly materials, the latest techniques, and up-to-date procedures. We repair all makes and models of vehicles and no job is too big or too small.
Auto Helpers: We are a full-service auto repair shop, working on half-ton trucks and smaller, and all makes of automobiles (excluding exotics). We opened in March 2017 and have been growing ever since! Our mission is to provide honest and fair automotive maintenance and repair for Sheboygan County.
How has the rise in inflation over the past year affected your business?
Dean’s: The rise in inflation has dramatically affected our business. Our profit margin has plummeted; we are unable to compete with surrounding manufacturers' wages (who are outside our industry) to retain employees, and purchasing important, required equipment has been put on hold.
Auto Helpers: We have actually seen people investing in their current vehicles lately due to the current used car market and low availability of new vehicles. Yes, prices have increased, but not dramatically.
With the average age of vehicles on the road increasing to an all-time high of over 12 years in 2022, has it been more difficult to procure replacement parts?
Dean’s: The age of the vehicle does not matter as much as the location of the damage and the popularity of the vehicle. For example, grilles and headlights on certain GM models are extremely difficult to procure; however, on that same vehicle, a rear bumper could be here within a day.
Auto Helpers: We have a lot of suppliers that we can search and find the needed items, so it has not been bad yet. What we have seen is certain parts will go on back order and take very long (3-6 months) to obtain. But for the most part, we can get what we need very quickly.
Have you seen any particular automobile parts affected more by the global automobile part shortage?
Dean’s: This is a very difficult question to answer because parts can go on national back order at any time. It can range from sheet metal, to bumpers and grilles, to small brackets. We are told by vendors the issue has more to do with how many parts can be produced—if they have people to make them, ship them, deliver them, etc.
Auto Helpers: Yes! Electronic parts can take a while to get!
Have you seen any particular year, make, and/or model affected more by inflation or the global automobile parts shortage?
Dean’s: At this point, there is not one manufacturer struggling more than others. Recently, we attended an industry night put on by Wisconsin Collision Repair Professionals (WCRP) who had a General Motors representative attend. He explained in past years, GM would maybe have about 100,000 parts on back order. Now, in 2022, they have approximately 700,000 on back order.
Auto Helpers: Ford Focus transmission control module is the first one that comes to mind! Very hard to get.
Do you see a difference in the effect of these issues on electric vehicles versus hybrid vehicles versus traditional gas-powered vehicles?
Dean’s: In short, no. Currently there are few electric vehicles in our marketplace for us to speak of a difference. What we do know about electric vehicles is the body style is completely different from hybrids and gas-powered. We would most likely see the same issues. We know from experience that hybrid vehicles and gas-powered vehicles have basically the same body styles and repairing both come with the same part procurement issues.
Auto Helpers: We do not see any full electric vehicles, and the hybrid vehicles we do are basic maintenance items, which are easy to come by.
It has been reported that new car quality has declined 11% in 2022. Have you seen an increase in the number of repairs/recalls on new vehicles?
Dean’s: We personally have not. When vehicles come to us, it is because the owner has damage due to an accident. Dean’s Auto Body is an independent repair facility, so we do not deal with manufacturer recall needs.
Auto Helpers: Most of the vehicles we see are 5 years old or more. Recalls and manufacturer warranty keep the newer vehicles returning to the dealerships.
Is there anything that consumers can do to help mitigate the increased frequency of and length of time for automobile repairs?
Dean’s: Yes, stay alert and don’t get in an accident (she says with a chuckle). In all sincerity though, there really is not. We have a shortage in qualified technicians along with a shortage in supplies and parts and we have advanced technology in vehicles, which requires more research on proper repairs. All those reasons contribute to longer repair times.
Auto Helpers: Not that I can think of. The pandemic definitely lowered the amount people were using their vehicles, so they obviously had less wear and tear.
Do you see an end to the global automobile parts shortage in sight?
Dean’s: We do not see an end to the global automobile parts shortage in sight. As a matter of fact, with the many discussions we have had with vendors and other industry leaders, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Auto Helpers: My prediction (no guarantees I’m right, LOL!) is it will be a few years before things level off. Also, I think this will change the market and things won’t go back to the way they were. Just like a lot of things, it’ll take a while, but people will get used to the new normal.
How can people contact you?
Dean’s: Dean’s Auto Body will always be here for our community, and we can be reached by multiple means! Phone at 920.457.5494; email at firstname.lastname@example.org; website at deansautobody.com. We are also on Facebook and Instagram.
Auto Helpers: Give us a call at 920.453.0240 or check out our website at www.SheboyganAutoHelpers.com and Facebook page!