Cost of New Cars Means More Business for Mechanics Company
Many mechanics in north-central Connecticut have seen a flood of new business from customers keeping their old vehicles in the face of inflated prices for new and used cars.
“During the day we have so many cars in the parking lot that we can barely move around,” said Larry Guillemette, owner of Larry’s Sales and Repair in Vernon.
The trend has been fueled in part by the willingness of customers to invest money in their current vehicle instead of buying a new or used one, both of which have increased in value over the past year, according to a recent report from The Detroit News. The volume caused a delay in repairs, delaying turnaround times and forcing some auto repair shops to completely reject customers.
Guillemette said his staff could service around 15 or 16 cars a day, but they get 20 to 25 cars every day. The result is a longer turnaround time; instead of same-day repairs, Guillemette said, customers should expect to be without their cars for three to four days, sometimes longer.
“We spend a lot of time on the phone apologizing to the right customers and telling them that we want to take care of you right away, but it’s going to take a week,” Guillemette said.
Zane Ezedine, owner of EZ Auto Export LLC in South Windsor, said he is no longer accepting walk-in customers due to the backlog, with five or six people lining up for a repair each day. Ezedine attributed the surge to the rising costs of new and used cars.
Some Connecticut mechanics have embraced the rebound after a huge drop in repairs. According to 2020 travel data from the Transportation Security Administration, nationwide traffic has declined by up to 92% during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Guillemette said he was very happy with the influx of new customers, especially compared to a year ago when his staff was cut in half and mechanics were lucky enough to work three or four hours a day. day.
But now the understaffing has strained the ability of some Connecticut shops to handle the repair boom. Keith Formanek, owner of Day Hill Automotive Inc. in Windsor, said the labor shortage has forced his staff to work harder to meet demand.
Guillemette reiterated this point, saying cars continue to pile up in his parking lot while waiting to be fixed.
“You can’t do a lot of work with the people you have,” he said.
A global shortage of computer chips has slowed automobile production and raised the prices of new cars. Formanek said price increases have led customers to try and squeeze more mileage out of their aging cars. He estimated that used cars currently sell for around 10-15% more than they are worth.
“People are almost afraid to buy cars because of the shortage of cars and the availability there,” Formanek said. “There aren’t many new cars in the parking lot.
Improving the quality of vehicles assembled from the mid-2000s increased durability and extended the life of aging vehicles, according to the Detroit News. London-based data provider IHS Markit reported in June that the average age of vehicles in the United States has reached a record 12.1 years.
Justin Pratt, who is the managing director of Jay’s Auto Sales and Repair in Manchester, said his store had not been as busy as it was before the pandemic. But Pratt said he noticed a dramatic increase in the number of used cars serviced, which he attributed to the lack of new car purchases.
“Two years ago used cars were like throwing away,” Pratt said. “Now it’s like (a customer’s) car needs $ 1,000 worth of work, it’s almost like throwing the money at me and saying, ‘Please fix it. the “. “
Rising prices for new and used cars have led to a change in the mindset of consumers, according to Guillemette – drivers pledge to extend their current vehicles.
“Most customers bring the car in with the spirit of commitment to make the car last,” said Guillemette. “While before the pandemic they brought the car with a state of mind, let’s keep this thing running for a month or two so I can buy a new one.”