NBC 5 Responds

NBC 5 Responds: Auto Parts Shortage Leads to Delayed Repairs

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A North Texas family said when their car broke down, they learned it take as long as a year to make the repair – thanks to a shortage of automotive parts. NBC 5 Responds looked into what’s behind the problem and what consumers need to know before a breakdown.

A North Texas family said when their car broke down, they learned it take as long as a year to make the repair – thanks to a shortage of automotive parts.

Read on to learn what’s behind the problem and what consumers need to know before a breakdown.

“We're making car payments on a car that's just sitting in a lot”

When their gently used 2014 Ford Focus stalled, Amber Cahalan hoped for an easy fix.

“This car has really low mileage on it: only 50,000 miles,” said Cahalan.

Cahalan said the family purchased the vehicle out-of-state before moving to North Texas. They took the car to the nearest Ford dealership where the Cahalans learned the car would need a new transmission control module, or TCM. It's a warranty-covered repair that would normally put the car in the shop for a day or two.

Cahalan said the service department told her the part is on national backorder.

“He pointed out multiple cars that all had just been sitting there waiting for this part,” said Cahalan.

Cahalan said the service department told her it could take as long as a year to make the repair.

“So, now we're making car payments on a car that's just sitting in a lot,” Cahalan told NBC 5 Responds.

“We don’t want to hold anybody’s car”

Many automotive parts, across the board, are in short supply.

“We don't want to hold anybody's car,” said Marc Cannon, Executive Vice President with AutoNation – the dealership working on Cahalan’s car.

“I'm hopeful that we might get lucky and be able to get it done before the end of the year. We've had some success recently with getting some parts in, but it's a tough situation and it's affecting every dealer across the U.S.,” added Cannon.

“It's a systemic disruption,” said Paul McCarthy, president and CEO of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association - which represents some 300 auto part manufacturers and suppliers.

McCarthy said the problem in the supply chain extends beyond the computer chip shortage.

“Every day our members wake up and here's a new problem, I fix that and it's whack-a-mole, here's the next thing,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy said several factors came into play. He points to a surge in demand when the economy began to restart after pandemic lockdowns along with transportation delays at U.S. ports and challenges finding space on trucks and enough drivers.

There are also labor shortages in manufacturing and a shortage of materials like precious metals and steel.

“This is the biggest supply chain disruption, the biggest challenge we've had meeting customer demand in almost a century,” said McCarthy. “We think it’s the biggest we've had since World War II.”

A resolution and advice for consumers

“I, personally, reached out to other dealerships and their stories are all pretty much the same. It's on national backorder,” Cahalan told NBC 5 Responds earlier this fall.

Without an available TCM, Cahalan said AutoNation worked with her to trade in the Focus for a vehicle her family could use now.

Cahalan said the dealership offered a fair trade-in value and the family is back on the road.

The Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association said an independent mechanic may have better luck getting a part you need, but that may not help you if it’s a warranty-related repair.

Now, more than ever, the AASA said stay on top of your vehicle’s maintenance to avoid a breakdown.

NBC 5 Responds reached out to Ford about the TCM national backorder. It hasn’t responded with answers to our questions.

NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and a resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our customer complaint form.