Are we headed for a Parts Crisis?
Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions are all but a distant memory. People have started crawling out from under their rocks and returning to normal life. But, South Africa being South Africa, long term effects of such a disruption to normal life, are a little delayed.
We have the perfect storm of brewing right now. We have the much talked about chip shortage, affecting new car sales. Compounded by a rebounding economy which increases demand. Additionally we have shipping costs skyrocketing whilst shipping availability is at an all-time low. Then consider that South Africa, relative to the rest of the world, actually has a tiny car market.
without a vehicle for several weeks
Recently I have noticed in various automotive publications, letters from disgruntled customers. Customers complaining that their car needed minor repairs and now they are without a vehicle for several weeks, if not months at a time. They vent their frustration at the vehicle manufacturers or dealers. Truth be told however, I fear we are heading for a car part shortage in this country, where any bits for your car, may become special order.
never had any difficulties sourcing parts
I recently experienced this myself when trying to source parts for my recently sold MX-5. I had never had any difficulties sourcing parts for this car. Yet when I needed to replace a windscreen and a seal on the gearbox, suddenly I was being told waiting times would be upwards of 4 weeks.
In my case this was not the end of the world as the car is still perfectly driveable and suffers no ill effects. However, imagine you only have one car that you absolutely rely on, and suddenly you are told you can not drive it. For several months! Given our lack of safe and reliable public transport, I would suggest that this is potentially a disaster.
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Sourcing parts from abroad
Many enthusiasts have resorted to importing parts themselves. Sourcing them from abroad and shipping at great cost to South Africa. The costs involved here are often much greater than trying to source parts from the agents. Import duties and shipping costs often exceed the value of the actual part. With international shipping costs still on the rise, this option may soon become too expensive for most.
Finally, because South Africa’s market is relatively small compared to global superpowers like America and Japan, parts requested by the agents locally, are not likely to be prioritised either. If parts are eventually dispatched by factories abroad, I don’t hold much hope that those parts would be destined for our shores. Even parts that are produced locally are more likely to be exported than being made available for the local market.
starting to affect mainstream cars
Classic car owners and owners of exotic cars will probably not feel these effects. We are all used to the idea of hunting for parts, scouring the corners of the internet and trying to find that final piece we need. However, this parts shortage is starting to affect mainstream cars. Gone are the days of being able to get spares for your Chico or Toyota from just about anywhere.
Cars need parts and those parts will eventually wear out. When they do they need replacement. In a country where the vast majority of us buy used rather than new, being able to get hold of parts is quite an important factor in our buying decision. If parts are truly drying up, we may be headed for a serious problem.
Of course I could be completely wrong about all of this… Let’s hope so.