KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – East Tennessee could soon feel the impact of the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike, which includes more than 49,000 General Motors Employees across the country being off the clock.
Kelly Long, a manager at King Collision Repair and Tire, said Friday, they haven’t had to turn away any customers or delay any repairs yet, but that they could very well run into an inventory problem at any time.
This is why. 99% of their customers prefer genuine parts, made by their car or trucks’ manufacturer. The technicians and managers at King Collision share that preference. Long said their main goal is to return cars and trucks to their “pre-accident” condition. They believe it requires original parts to fulfill that goal.
For a repair shop, genuine parts come from the dealerships. They order their GM parts from Twin City Buick GMC. The dealership has some inventory in-stock. What they lack is ordered directly from GM factories, which are currently short on a workforce. Long said she’s on the phone making orders from Twin City GM daily.
Recently, their parts department advised the strike could, at some point, affect them, which would also affect King Collision.
“They have a huge warehouse with parts in it, but they get delivered every day, and it’s not getting filed back in,” Long said.
Any delay in repair could cost the customer, or the insurance company, or both, Long explained.
If a person’s car is damaged so badly that it’s can’t be driven, the owner may need a rental car. If they don’t have rental car coverage, that would mean an out-of-pocket cost. The longer it takes to get a part in, the longer the customer would pay for a rental. Even if they have rental car coverage through their auto insurance, she added, they usually don’t have anymore than 30 days coverage.
Long’s worst-case scenario includes a customer, wanting an immediate fix, opting for after-market parts.
“We don’t like doing it and usually the customer doesn’t like that, especially if they have a later-model vehicle,” Long said.
They want GM parts back on them and I don’t blame them,” she said.
Brandon Moffitt, another manager at King Collision, said he takes pride in restoring cars and trucks back to their original condition.
He thinks the body shop industry will be fine, overall, but said it could get to the point where a part is unavailable altogether, if the strike drags out too much longer.
Friday morning Moffitt called Twin City to order a bumper. They didn’t have it in stock, but they were able to find it at another, nearby, dealership.
It’s not uncommon for their dealership to not have a part in stock, but it is uncommon for them not to be able to reach out directly to the manufacturer to order it.
Moffitt said that’s only option right now for dealerships because, “right now there are no trucks coming from the GM plants. There are no trucks running,” he said.
He also prefers genuine parts from the manufacturer because he explained after-market parts have issue fitting, and the overall quality isn’t the same as original parts.
His worst-case scenario, for now, includes longer repair time.
“If it’s a non-drivable vehicle and we can’t get our hands on the parts, that vehicle is basically just going to sit there until we get the parts,” he said.
In fact, Moffitt has been instructed by a couple insurance agencies not to schedule a drivable car for service, until the required parts are in hand.