OEMs hammered by Windsor border blockade; aftermarket shops, not so much

by | Feb 10, 2022 | 0 comments

A live image from midday Thursday, February 10, 2022 shows no traffic coming into Canada at the Ambassador Bridge. The U.S. bound bridge lanes are similarly empty.

Among the many impacts of the Ambassador Bridge blockade has been the very different affects on the OEM sector of the automotive industry, and on the local aftermarket.

UPDATE: While the Province of Ontario announced a state of emergency and will introduce measures to end the blockade, as of 2 pm ET Friday, February 11, the Ambassador Bridge remained closed

UPDATE 2: After a weekend of police enforcement activities, the bridge area was cleared of the blockade. Bridge traffic resumed at approximately 12:30 am Monday February 14.

Flavio Volpe, the president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association says that the powers that be are being overly sensitive to the implications of ending the Ambassador Bridge blockade and need to focus on the impact on the auto parts manufacturing sector.

Some $300 million in goods cross the bridge daily, including some $50 million in auto parts. The crossing has been blockaded by a small group of vehicles since Monday February 7.

The APMA represents the original equipment automotive parts suppliers and are heavily dependent on just-in-time delivery. Several automotive manufacturing facilities in Canada and the U.S. are already shut down or have idled shifts due to the supply chain disruption.

Flavio Volpe told the CBC “A lot of people are being overly sensitive to the noise that this is and the attention that’s, this is being focused here. They’re worried about maybe the response of people who will say, ‘no, I won’t move my car.’

“Those the same people now have to be worried about the 140,000 people who are in the automotive sector, who are not partially shut down today. They’re completely shut down. The tens of thousand of truckers who carry $50 million worth of parts across that bridge every day are sitting at home.”

Volpe called for officials to enforce the law.

“It’s about 30 pickup trucks and people who are standing in the middle of highways. And we’ve been saying to every single level of government and just enforce the law. This is not difficult. This is different than what’s happening in Ottawa.”

Outside of the OEM supply chains, the immediate impact has been limited. It is notable that while supply disruptions have had an almost immediate impact on the OE sector, the automotive aftermarket does not operate on a just-in-time model–it is virtually impossible to accurately predict when a part might require replacement–and instead relies on accurate forecasts and inventory.

No notable disruptions have been reported by aftermarket organizations at this time, aside from diversions and longer wait times at other border crossings now handling volumes usually sent through Windsor.

Still, it is perhaps surprising to see how little impact the situation is having locally in Windsor.

Locally, while traffic disruptions close to the bridge are considerable, in other parts of Windsor, traffic flow and impact are not noticeable.

Brian, the service manager at Evoy’s Service Garage in central Windsor says “the biggest thing is that anything coming across the border from the U.S. is going to be delayed but that was already there. We had more disruptions from the weather.”

While he says that he’s hopeful disruptions will remain limited, he’s also focused on issues closer to home. “I tell people I can’t control what goes on on the highways and byways and I’m not a weather man.”

Derek Snider, owner at Heinz Garage, located near the Windsor tunnel crossing, also says that traffic is flowing unimpeded.

“In fact I’m going across to the U.S today to pick up some aftermarket parts. No joke.”

He says that it would probably take weeks of disruptions before the impact would be significant for the aftermarket. He echoes other comments about the ongoing supply chain issues, more acutely felt by the automakers.

“Honestly, this whole situation has been slow rolling for two years now,” and with that he begged off to head into the tunnel to pick up parts and keep his aftermarket business rolling.

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