The automotive aftermarket has a parts availability problem (for right now)

Some aftermarket parts categories are in short supply. Repair shops are turning away customers because they don’t have all the parts to do some repairs.

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We have good (and bad) problems right now.

First, the good. Phones are ringing off the hook at warehouses and parts stores. Bays at repair shops across the country are full of vehicles. And a surge in pricing caused by a lack of new cars is causing consumers to hold onto their vehicles even longer than ever. 

Now, the bad. 

Some aftermarket parts categories are in short supply. Repair shops are turning away customers because they don’t have all the parts to do some repairs. 

This is not the fault of aftermarket suppliers. A combination of lack of raw material availability, freight uncertainties, port congestion and in some places, Covid-19 outbreaks are just some of the reasons suppliers simply can’t get certain parts out the door. The problems are affecting OEM suppliers as well.

The well-known shortage of semiconductors is leading to a lack of new cars making it to dealership lots and prices are surging. Customers are not only being to pay sticker price for a vehicle, but in some instances, thousands above it. I also read an account today of an automaker shipping vehicles to dealerships without certain expected ADAS features because of the lack of semiconductors. (I suppose most of a car is better than no car!)

I spoke to a parts professional this week whose shop customers are telling their customers to wait for repairs. 

“They’re telling people to wait to bring in their vehicles until they get the parts, as long as the vehicle is safe and driveable,” this parts pro said. “I’m hearing that a lot.”

The parts pro said they are seeing shortages in parts ranging from rotors, brake pads, to spark plugs, oil and air filters, cabin air filters and radiators.

“To me, it’s worse than a year ago,” the parts pro said. “I had a customer the other day call for brake pads… They were only available at the warehouse.”

O’Reilly Auto Parts CEO Greg Johnson mentioned the issue in the company’s recent earnings call. “We’ve been pleased with the strong performance of the majority of our supplier base and, overall, our supply chain has held up very well,” he said. “But we do have room for improvement with a small number of suppliers who have underperformed due to pandemic impacts, raw material shortages or shipping delays.”

I don’t know anyone who expected a smooth transition out of a global pandemic, but the rough edges are showing just a bit. 

I’ve known counter and warehouse professionals for a long time. They’ve always been very creative people. Most vehicle owners have no idea what a parts pro has gone through to make sure their vehicle has the parts it needs to leave the bay! 

This is a short-term problem. Our industry will get through it, just like we always do. 

Until then, let’s stay creative and nimble and work together to get through this period.

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