Metro auto shops starting to feel the pinch of supply chain shortages

ATLANTA — The cost of groceries, travel, even getting your car’s oil changed before a holiday trip may feel really expensive.

You may ask if high prices and empty store shelves are here to stay.

Local auto mechanics are asking the same things.

Channel 2 Action News has learned that high prices and short supplies are impacting their bottom line and how long it takes to get your car repaired.

“It started a little bit when the pandemic started. But this year [2021], since February, it’s gotten worse and worse and worse,” Rashed Wesa said.

Wesa has worked at the Express Oil Change off Hayens Bridge Road in Alpharetta for 22 years.

This year he’s turned customers away because he can’t find everyday items like brake pads, even oil.

He said specialty items like computer parts take months to get.

“It’s very hard for customer to keep the car here for six seven months. They don’t even know when’s the computer [going to] come,” Wesa said.

He said when an item is in stock, the prices are unbelievable.

“Even an AC compressor -- last year was $265, our price now is $412,” Wesa said.

An AutoZone executive told Channel 2 Action News they’re running the lowest inventory in memory during an earnings call in August.

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In October, auto parts manufacturer and distributer Standard Motor Products’ CEO Scott Luton asked Congress to address supply chain issues to help the struggling industry.

“Certainly, it’s costing a loss in revenue for my company and downstream customers, but I believe the far bigger issue is that consumers are experiencing delays in getting their vehicles repaired,” Luton said. “The pandemic has really taken those traditional challenges to new levels, while adding a metric ton of new unique problems.”

There is a shortage of workers because people fear disease or can’t find childcare, while more Americans ask for groceries and home office equipment to be shipped to their homes.

So, what needs to change to get back to normal?

“This is a multitrillion dollar question and there’s not one general answer because there’s so many factors,” Luton said.

Disruptions because of infrastructure, climate change and worker shortages means some items will continue to be hard to find and cost more.

“Over a long period of time a dollar buys less and less and less,” said Brent Meyer with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Meyer said inflation, or getting less bang for your buck, is usually normal. But the same issues hurting our supply chain cause prices to climb.

“As long as the pandemic’s kind of sticking around with us, we anticipate that that demand for goods consumption to be really, still really high,” Meyer said.

Economists like Meyer are optimistic rising prices and shortages will slow down but it will take months, or another year. Wesa said he is optimistic too.

“Everything we’re going through right now is going to be history,” Wesa said. “It’ll be a story to tell our grandkids so just hand in there, just be happy.”

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