Recent surveys have found that there are more than 9 million job openings in the United States. Many industries are struggling to find and hire the people they need to keep business running smoothly. As businesses began reopening and customer demand for services began to surge earlier this year, some companies were limited in their ability to bounce back from the pandemic slowdown because workers weren’t returning to work right away.
Industries affected by the labor shortage are all over the map. They include restaurants and hospitality, retail, construction, HVAC and skilled trades like electricians, plumbers, and masons. Healthcare has been struggling with a shortage of nurses and other professionals.
The reasons for this are varied. Many have taken advantage of the time allowed by higher-than-usual unemployment payments or economic stability provided by a family member who has stayed employed to rethink their career options. A percentage of unskilled or low-skilled workers have considered changing paths, while others have sought more flexible work arrangements, higher salaries, or positions closer to home. Some workers still fear infection in their work environment or are resisting vaccine mandates that would allow them to return to work. Many parents have felt unable to go back to work as long as their children were home and needing help with remote learning… These are just a few examples of the factors at play.
Is There a Shortage of Mechanics and Auto Repair Technicians?
There are more cars on the road today than ever and car owners are hanging onto their vehicles for longer. This means that skill repair technicians are in high demand; and this has been true for a number of years.
Similar to what many of the skilled trades are experiencing, the current labor force is moving towards retirement while the pool of younger talent is shrinking due to a competitive labor market. “As demand has grown, supply has not kept up,” explains Brian Kaner of ICAHN Automotive Group. “A lot of that is driven by a lack of investment in schools and a de-emphasis on technical programs starting from the high school level. As the employee base ages out, we haven’t been filling that gap with younger technicians.
Together, these factors are making finding new mechanics and auto body technicians a real challenge. Now, this current labor shortage has caused many auto repair shops to close down, delay work, or raise prices, because they cannot find people who are qualified for the job. Despite the fact that proposed wages have gone up in most areas, many positions at auto body and repair shops sit unfilled.
Are There Other Problems Affecting Repair Times?
Sanctions & War Disruptions
The latest in geo-political issues to affect the automotive industry stem from Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. For some car manufacturers, the fighting has disrupted factory activity for new car manufacturing and producing parts for repairs. It’s true that sanctions imposed by the UK, EU and US are making it more difficult to sell cars in Russia, but there are a whole host of supply issues caused by this war that affect U.S. consumers as well.
- Renault temporarily closed its factory in Moscow because of supply problems.
- Toyota lost 13,000 cars’ worth of output following a Russian-led cyberattack targeting one of its suppliers of plastic and electrical components.
- Skoda decreased vehicle production due to parts shortages caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- Volkswagen had to slow production in Germany and other plants because parts are not currently being made in Ukraine.
- Volvo was the first auto brand to suspend delivery of new vehicles to Russia in keeping with the international sanctions put in place.
Shortages of Repair Parts
Lately, repair shops are also struggling with a shortage of parts. Supply issues are impacting every department in the body shop and are a struggle for both manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers, who are also running out of inventory.
There has been a significant rise in backorders and delays for components like converters and car glass. This shortage in parts has been created by the fact that manufacturers slowed down or stopped production during the pandemic, interrupting the supply chain. Conditions are also complicated by slow shipping times and delays related to transportation.
Shortages of Supplies for New Car Manufacturing
When it comes to manufacturing new automobiles, there are multiple shortages of materials that are slowing down production and pushing up the prices of new cars. These include microchips and electronics, seating foam, wiring, headlights, bumpers and sheet metal.
How Does This Impact Car Owners?
Economists expect the shortage to ease starting this month. With children back in school, demand for most services and products going up, vaccines that are readily available, and decreasing federal unemployment benefits, less job openings are expected to remain open. Though the problem is not likely to go away immediately. Labor shortages will probably continue well into the next year.
The labor shortage, slow supply of replacement parts and materials, along with critical shortages like microchips in the auto industry are causing delays for car owners. Many shops have had to raise prices for services in order to offer higher salaries to retain valuable technicians and attract new hires who are needed to keep up with demand. In the end, car owners will likely run into slower turnaround times and higher costs for car repairs.
What Can Customers in Pennsylvania Expect?
We have been encouraging our customers to be patient. Pennsylvania auto repair shops are dealing with the same shortages in parts, materials, and labor, as well as transportation and delivery delays as the rest of the country. The good news is that most of the critical parts and materials that are running short these days affect new car manufacturing, but not collision repair.
- Cost – The high demand for repairs and competition over parts that are in short supply could mean that repairs will be more expensive. As an alternative, buying parts from dealerships may be an option but will ultimately increase the cost for repairs. For this reason, we recommend that car owners in Pennsylvania request a detailed estimate before getting repair work done and consider getting quotes from multiple shops to better understand your options.
- Time – For drivable vehicles, customers will need to be patient as some shops are scheduling less urgent repairs almost three months out. Although repair shops like Badell’s do try to save some work hours in case someone’s primary vehicle must be towed in.
- Competition – That triple effect of hail, deer and winter weather means body shops in Pennsylvania are super busy. In addition to the usual seasonal increase in demand, car owners are more concerned about getting their vehicles tuned up and running efficiently with the skyrocketing price of gas.
Why Is It Important to Support the Skilled Trades?
High school students and recent graduates are largely encouraged to focus on college and obtaining bachelor’s degrees when those with trade skills are needed more than ever. Yet, manual jobs have always been and will continue to be in high demand for industries including automotive.
To turn this trend around, corporations like Pep Boys and AAMCO have started partnering with trade schools and offering more apprenticeships. “There is a stigma around automotive work as a dirty, greasy, blue-collar job, but it’s not like that these days,” Kaner continues. “There’s so much technology and engineering involved nowadays that students should really consider auto repair as part of a STEM career.”
With more drivers on the road and automotive innovations advancing, filling this gap and relieving this labor shortage is imperative for all of us to move forward.
Badell’s Collision Repair Is Hiring
We’ve got some great career opportunities right here at both our Aston and Malvern locations. Get more information here.