The American fleet had grown exponentially by the 1970s.
This growth has led to an influx in business for many body shops. Vehicle manufacturers were all about new cars, new models and the next great gizmo to help sell more cars. However, little thought was given to parts and service. Manufacturers had developed their network of dealers—and, it was up to those dealers to take care of the customer after the sale. The problem was that there were not enough dealers with body shops to handle the level of business the new cars created. It would be years before the OE’s realized they had to provide better support to the industry and to independent shops.
Availability of parts from automakers was limited and therefore, it was not an OE’s first priority. Fred Jones, Pennsylvania shop owner, testified before a Senate Subcommittee, investigating the high cost of auto repair states. Jones continued to say that repairers cannot depend on parts deliveries from the big three automakers. He said he waited 28 days for parts on a Ford, 69 days for Buick parts and 37 days for Plymouth parts. He noticed that many new parts came in damaged. The repairer can go back to the dealer who claims the damage was produced by the trucking company, but it is difficult to make a claim. Even if a claim is made, the trucking company may or may not pay it. If the dealer will not compensate the shop for the repair, the shop must eat the cost.
Jones continued to share his input on pricing. He said many dealers now receive wholesale compensation to help defray their reduction in gross profit when they discount parts to the independent shop. However, many deals do no avail themselves of the program and continue to sell parts to shops at a price, which gives the dealer-owned shop an unfair advantage. At the time, a dealer could give an independent body shop a discount of 10% off the MSRP price and 15% off if the shop was a great customer. Furthermore, insurance companies are having cars towed from Jones’ yard to have them repaired at other shops, for what is claimed to be a lower price, without knowing what his price was, Jones’ said.