She said in extreme cases it can take up to a year to get components for vehicles.
Supply chain issues impacting several large vehicle companies have been a significant problem for much of the year, Houle noted.
She said a domino effect of lifted COVID health restrictions leading to more vehicular traffic, a widespread labour shortage and supply chain issues are causing “very overwhelming” work conditions for their staff.
Trojan Collision rented additional space to hold growing numbers of non-drivable vehicles towed to its Shenton Rd. property waiting to be fixed.
“Right now if your vehicle were to be damaged in such a way that it wasn’t safe to drive, it’s almost impossible to find a shop that will take your vehicle,” Houle said.
The long-time family-run company has held as many as 80 vehicles on its lot, she noted.
Laird Wheaton Body Shop manager Leo Vaudrin said they are now booking into next year for vehicle repairs.
He said waiting two to four months for various auto parts to arrive has been a frustrating new standard for the past year or so.
“Every shop is backed up right now, plus you can’t get parts…It’s easy for us to have 15 vehicles hanging around but we can’t actually work on them because we don’t have parts…I’ve been here for 30 years, I’ve never seen it like this.”
Vaudrin doesn’t see immediate relief, pointing to winter driving season as a historically busy time of year which could further delay repairs.
He said while customers are frustrated, they seem to now understand why extended service delays are happening.
“It’s kinda funny, when this first started customers were like ‘what? No way, I’m going somewhere else.’ Now it seems like the word is getting out there and customers are going ‘yep, see you in three months.’”
Vaudrin said some drivers facing prolonged waits for their vehicles to be fixed are also burdened by high costs for their rental vehicles.
He said standard insurance only covers motorists for days, not several weeks.
“That goes nowhere if we’re going to have the vehicle for two or three months. If they’re not at fault it’s not that big of a deal because the insurance company will look after the rental on back-ordered parts, but if you’re at fault, good luck.”
Vaudrin said an industry-wide challenge of not enough new talent entering the vehicle mechanics business is an increasingly worrying trend.
At Parksville Chrysler Body Shop, general manager Darryl Kellett said the same issues impacting the Nanaimo shops are happening throughout the Oceanside region and all over Vancouver Island.
He said over the past year they’ve had vehicles waiting for upwards of six months due to delayed parts.
“Most people have been very understanding, but some people just don’t understand and don’t get the situation that we’re in,” Kellett told NanaimoNewsNOW.
Due to a lack of space, Kellett said they’re also no longer storing damaged vehicles on their lot.
“If you go back three, four years ago, we would never not accept a non-drive, we would just automatically bring it in.”
Closures of three Island auto body shops (Nanaimo, Courtenay and Campbell River) further squeezed an already maxed-out industry desperate for workers, Kellett said.
People aren’t dropping off resumes at Parksville Chrysler anymore, he said.
“There’s nobody walking in the door looking for work. And that’s something we’ve really noticed in the last couple of years, there’s no interest.”
ICBC data showed more than 28,000 motor vehicle crashes in Nanaimo between 2017 and 2021.
The number of crashes in Nanaimo and the Oceanside region reported to ICBC both in fact trended downward last year compared to pre-pandemic levels from 2017 to 2019.
Join the conversation. Submit your letter to NanaimoNewsNOW and be included on The Water Cooler, our letters to the editor feature.
On Twitter: @reporterholmes