Drivers face long wait times for auto repairs

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Paul McCarthy, president of the Auto Aftermarket Suppliers Association, says the industry is in the midst of its biggest supply chain disruption since World War II.

NEW ORLEANS — Kevin Boudreaux hauls equipment in a borrowed truck. He’s been doing it for 6 months.

Boudreaux runs KJB Wood, a flooring company based in Harahan. Earlier this year, his company’s only work van started having engine trouble. He dropped it off at his brother’s repair shop, Boudreaux’s Auto Care, thinking it would take a few weeks to fix it.

It was in February. The van is still at the store.

In the meantime, Boudreaux has spent more than four thousand dollars renting vans and moving trucks.

“It’s been…it’s been a lot of fun,” Boudreaux said with a laugh.

Drivers all over the world are experiencing the same problem. This is largely thanks to the unpredictable wait times for many auto parts. Those with electrical components, as well as those shipped from overseas, are the hardest to get right now.

The issue also puts pressure on mechanics who, depending on the needs of a customer’s vehicle, know they could return keys in days or answer frustrated calls for months.

Paul McCarthy, president of the Auto Aftermarket Suppliers Association, says the industry is in the midst of its biggest supply chain disruption since World War II. Behind it is a long list of unique events in a generation.

A few years ago, manufacturers faced big changes in the way they distributed parts, thanks to sweeping new rules and trade tariffs. Then COVID-19 hit. Amid the pandemic, many other issues have emerged including a shift in the labor market, inflation, and high gasoline prices. Even the war in Ukraine is having an impact, thanks to the slowdown in mineral exports from Ukraine and Russia.

“It’s like Whack-A-Mole,” McCarthy said. “Every day we wake up and here comes a new challenge.”

Then, once the parts arrive, drivers can still wait. With so many repairs in limbo, mechanics are seeing a backlog of appointments build up. Back at Boudreaux’s Auto Care, Service Advisor Davis Saling checked the shop’s appointment schedule. He clicked on several weeks, all fully booked.

In fact, the parts for Kevin Boudreaux’s van came back in June. It is still waiting for them to be installed.

Experts expect the industry to take years to recover. Saling says that in the meantime, you should take your car to a mechanic as soon as you notice a problem, rather than waiting. Other than that, there’s not much to do.

Boudreaux knows this firsthand. He said that when he brought his van, he expected to pick it up in a few weeks. Six months later, he’s still renting trucks to run his business, which he politely called a “pretty big inconvenience.”

For now, all he can do, along with the many others whose cars are in limbo, is wait.

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