Quake could disrupt service, used-car sales

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News.

The earthquake in Japan may affect not only new-vehicle inventory, but the availability of replacement parts for dealership service and parts operations.

I took an informal poll of service and parts managers and fixed operations directors, and most said the earthquake has had little effect so far. But there are rumblings from the factories about possible parts shortages in the future.

And that could keep dealerships from fixing vehicles, or at least repairing them in a timely manner. Dealers also could have trouble prepping used vehicles for sale.

Some shop managers say certain paint colors are unavailable for collision repair.

Mike Vogel, fixed operations director for Carson Toyota-Scion in Carson, Calif., says body parts for the Toyota Yaris, Scion xB and Scion xD, and shock absorbers for models such as RAV-4 and FJ Cruiser are affected.

Vogel says Toyota is updating dealers daily on parts that are on manual allocation. These parts can’t be ordered for stock. If needed, they must be requested from the district service and parts manager.

Toyota, in an effort to avoid depleting inventories at the parts distribution center, also is prohibiting dealers from ordering large quantities of parts, he says. The automaker has canceled orders from dealers who tried to stock up, Vogel says.

Rob Murphy, service director of Waldorf Chrysler-Jeep in Waldorf, Md., says his store is making sure its Japanese used cars “get prepped and inspected ASAP” to beat possible shortages and price increases. “We know it will happen at any time,” he says.

And Charlie Christie, service director of Royal Cadillac in Florham Park, N.J., sees no parts shortages now, but General Motors “has told us they are on the horizon.”

Dealerships seem to be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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