Petroleum increases put squeeze on auto body repair industry - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Petroleum increases put squeeze on auto body repair industry

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October 12, 2005

Albany- These Albany Tech students are hard at work learning hands-on the ins and outs of auto body repair, yet another industry that has become a casualty of rising petroleum prices.

"You can safely say 60% of the vehicle is plastic, between 40 and 60 % is plastic. The seat covers, the carpet is plastic-based, certain parts of the glass processes, rear-view mirrors, everything you touch on the inside of the vehicle is basically a petroleum-based product," says Albany Tech Auto Collision Repair instructor Bill Underwood.

Underwood says manufacturers use plastic because it weighs less and gives a car better fuel economy.

"Plastics are so superior to metal. They don't corrode. They don't break down, they don't rust, they never go away, and they're almost indestructible," he says.

But superior is becoming more costly. He says some companies that make the smallest petroleum-based clips and screws are beginning to go bankrupt.

"The major manufacturing industries are eating a lot of this cost overruns right now. This fiscal year it's eating into their profits by a margin of 55%, and they're not passing that cost overrun on to us yet, but eventually it will hit," Underwood says. "If things don't change soon it's going to be horrible."

It's not just parts that are being effected, that shiny paint on the exterior of your vehicle, it's petroleum-based too. Underwood says red-based are the most expensive and have gone up the most. For example, six months ago a quart of red paint was $80, now it's $120.

"My paint prices have gone up about 15% in the last eight months because of the shortage of refining process," Outside the classroom, area businesses are being hit hard as well.

"We're going to see an increase greater than the percentages that are generally applied," says Michelle Renee Draper of Draper Auto Body Repair Shop.

The owners of Draper Auto Body Repair are bracing for a 5% increase in cost just to keep their doors open next year.

So, from the pump to the paint, more costly petroleum is definitely making it more expensive to keep your car on the road.

In addition to manufacturing costs, auto repair experts say it's costing them more to have parts shipped to them. Some are even preparing to raise their labor rates to offset the increase.

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