Minnesota motorists left waiting as supply chain problems delay repairs

Gary DeRusha held a small housing for a Chrysler oil filter in his hand and proudly explained how he’d found 27 of them in a warehouse in New Jersey and promptly bought all of them.

It was a big get because, if you try to get the part through the dealer, it’s a long, long wait.

"The last time I checked with Chrysler, they had 70,000 of these on back order," he said.

DeRusha is the operations manager at Bobby and Steve’s Auto World in Eden Prairie.  He says they fix 40 to 50 cars here each day, and many can get done quickly if parts are available, but others have had to wait because there remains a frustrating backlog.

He showed us part of an exhaust system for a Jeep Grand Cherokee that he ordered months ago and had finally arrived.  And a tiny high-pressure fuel line for a GM vehicle he ordered a few weeks ago that also just came in.

"So that car has been waiting in our basement for three weeks waiting for just this part."

Because repair shops like his use after-market parts, the wait can be quicker than at dealerships, who wait for factory parts.  He said four cars came in this morning that dealerships wouldn’t look at until mid-August.

And one woman opted to pay for a repair to her Volvo that would have been covered under warranty at her dealer, but would have made her wait two months.  "She said I don’t care, I’m just going to pay for it, and I’ll figure it out later."

Body shops are also seeing a backlog of repairs.  LaMettry’s in Eden Prairie said they’re booking for the end of August.  Their parking lot is full of cars waiting for work, which they said hadn’t happened since a huge hailstorm in 2013.

Another Twin Cities body shop said they’re booking collision work as long as two to three months out.  They say parts, again, plays a major factor.

But they also said they’re simply seeing more damaged cars, and with more serious damage, each year.  They don’t know why, but wonder about the role of distracted driving.

Another issue is finding skilled mechanics and technicians.  Several body shops said they could easily expand their shops because of all the work, but they wouldn’t be able to find the staff to fill the stalls.   They point to a decline of young workers entering the trade, and predict an even bigger problem when experience mechanics start retiring.

And hail damage?  East metro shops say a hail storm from mid-May created another backlog, with hail repair now being booked into next year.

When will it end?  That’s hard to answer, say shops, because so much of the backlog is supply chain issues that make some of the parts tougher to get.

DeRusha’s advice is simple: "We’ll do the very best we can for you. Yes is the answer, what’s the question? We’ll figure it out together. Just be patient with us."