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There’s at least one part of the car business that’s booming in an industry that has struggled with COVID-related economic pitfalls and supply chain delays.
Auto repair shop owners say they are busier than usual as drivers keep their cars longer.
Darrell Gentry owns Baird’s Auto Care in Normal. Gentry said his shop is seeing several hundred vehicles per month, more than he’s seen in years.
“It just seems like lately they’ve been definitely repairing big items on them they used to not fix,” he said.
Gentry said there may be several reasons people are waiting longer to replace their vehicle: computer chip shortages; slower new vehicle production; and higher prices for new and used automobiles.
“I think people are just not wanting to go into debt right now on car payments and they’d rather fix their car,” he said, adding about half of the cars that customers bring to his shop now have at least 150,000 miles on them.
Those parts delays have been a bane to auto repair shops, too.
Jerry Adams, owner of Mid-State Transmission Service in Normal, said some transmission repairs have had to wait weeks until they can find parts, either through the dealer or another supplier.
“At some point, everybody is going to run out of the parts and so the completed units in inventory right now are going to be depleted pretty quickly,” Adams said. “It’s a problem going forward.”
Adams said automakers haven’t indicated how long supply delays will last. “No one has been willing to put any kind of a timeline on that,” he said. “Honestly, they don’t give us all of the details of what the problems are. They just say we can’t get it.”
Adams said business has been strong despite those delays, noting he’s grateful customers are willing to be patient.
Gentry said the increased demand has helped offset financial losses his shop took last year when far fewer people were driving.
He’d like to hire two more technicians to help with the increased business, but he can’t find the workers. “I’m looking to hire more, but nobody is applying,” he said, adding he believes expanded unemployment benefits kept more people from looking for work.