The hits keep right on coming for the U.S. economy thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unemployment benefits were provided for those whose jobs the pandemic eliminated, but now restaurants cannot find enough staff to stay open for customers. Prices went up for many household staples. And now auto glass shops are struggling with a glass shortage. Customers want their windshields and side lites replaced now. But where is the replacement glass?
“I wish it would go away,” says Rick Valentine, owner of Intermountain Auto Glass in Boise, Idaho, of the glass shortage. For Valentine’s company, getting glass is “hit and miss.” He says his staff has to be creative and ship glass from other parts of the U.S. when necessary.
The problem is getting the glass from manufacturers and out of shipping ports. “There’s just not enough parts,” he says. He has about 100 customers who have been waiting three or four months for glass. Intermountain staff checks daily with suppliers, and when they find what a customer needs, they get it shipped to Boise.
Despite the challenges, Valentine says his shop is not as affected as other auto shops by the glass shortage because his shop provides ADAS services and higher-end products, which manufacturers prioritize shipping glass to for replacement in new vehicles. “Our suppliers have a tendency to keep those windshields moving,” Valentine says.
“I think it’s going to continue for at least another six months,” Valentine says of the glass shortage. Ships are waiting in port at Los Angeles with not enough workers to unload them. Valentine says that 20 times more containers than usual are waiting to be unloaded.
Jacques Navant, technical director of Don’s Mobile Glass in Modesto, Calif., says his company is lucky because it can buy glass direct from the manufacturers. “People on the west coast will get the glass before the rest of the country,” he says.
However, he knows of dozens of Tesla vehicles waiting on used car lots in need of new windshields. Commuters trade their Teslas in which often have roof and windshield damage from the wear and tear of miles driven. “Windshields and roofs are obviously major safety features [to repair],” Navant says.
Don’s Mobile has bought cars from local rent-a-car lots just to get the glass and install it in customer vehicles. “It’s an opportunity and a headache for glass shops,” Navant says of the glass shortage. For shops who prepared for the shortage, business is good, but not for shops that were unprepared.
Navant says Don’s Mobile has a good inventory and in early 2020 a staff member saw a shortage of tools and shower doors, so the company stocked up. They also stocked up on auto glass, and now glass companies around the U.S. are calling asking to purchase inventory.
A perfect storm of various factors created the glass shortage: labor issues, the COVID-19 pandemic. “I don’t think there’s one thing we can point at [as the cause],” Navant says.
And he sees the supply getting tighter and tighter in the next year to year and a half before manufacturers can catch up. “I think we’re in for an interesting next year to year and a half.”
“Just trying to be forward thinking and purchase as much glass as we can when it’s available,” Navant says. He adds that everyone in the auto glass industry should keep clear heads, stay positive and reach out to each other “until the world rights itself.”