Not long after the union United Auto Workers went on strike against three big carmakers earlier this month, Precise Auto Service in Kensington, Maryland, sent an email blast to about 1,000 customers.
Many customers have been reluctant to go through with all of the shop’s recommended repairs or services, according to Shop Manager Blake Ridgeway, because of how expensive it has become to maintain cars. But in the message, the shop urged customers to not put off addressing its recommendations, “to go ahead and get it in now while they still can, while parts are available to a certain extent.”
Though the strike is fairly recent, Ridgeway said some delays in getting parts preceded it. The shop used to be able to get parts within 24 hours, but in the last three to six months, he said “it’s been really difficult. We’ve had cars sitting for a week-plus sometimes.”
The average turnaround time is now two to three days, Ridgeway said, and within 24 hours for brakes. For axle or suspension parts, there’s a day or two wait, which could sometimes be longer, depending on the manufacturer.
Rising prices have made some customers reluctant to bring their cars in for repairs, and when oil prices went up, Ridgeway said the shop’s owner waited over two years to increase prices — but eventually had to, in order to keep up.
“Our cost and the cost to the customer now is just outrageous,” Ridgeway said.
As the strike goes on, Ridgeway anticipates it may take longer than usual to get some parts in. Body shops are still able to get many of the items they need, he said, “but that may change down the road, depending on how long this goes on.”
Meanwhile, the supply challenges, according to Ridgeway, aren’t unique to small, local auto shops. Precise Auto does business with a small used parts shop in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and “the driver had told us he’s been on this side of town more lately than he has before because he’s going to dealerships delivering them parts, BMW parts.”
Ridgeway added, “When he told me that I was just like, ‘OK, this is eye-opening that the dealers are now going to used parts, because they can’t get their own parts.'”
The solution isn’t as simple as finding parts online, according to Ridgeway.
“The parts that are on eBay or Amazon, I don’t recommend anybody to get, just because they’re a third-party manufacturer that’s doing them and slapping a label on them,” Ridgeway said. “I’ve had countless people come in with Amazon parts, and we put them in, and they’ve been right back here within a couple of weeks having the same issue.”
United Auto Workers, currently on strike against Ford, General Motors and Jeep maker Stellantis, said it will reveal how it plans to expand its strike on Friday.