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Cost of producing fiberglass auto body parts

A recent comment about the "high cost" of some of my fiberglass fenders prompts me to explain a little about the cost of producing fiberglass auto body parts.

The cost of any product you buy--from basic groceries to your high-tech iPhone--includes the manufacturer's cost to develop, make, and deliver it; plus some amount of markup that makes it worthwhile for the manufacturer to stay in business. After all, isn't making money the objective of being "in business?"

For someone making fiberglass car parts, the costs include the materials, like the dry fabric, and the resin and catalyst. But there's also the cost of the consumables of the process like mold wax, solvents, and sand paper.

Of course, fiberglass molding is also a labor-intensive process...and watching a YouTube video on it does not make you an experienced laminator who can consistently produce high-quality parts. That only comes with years of experience. Skill and experience in the fiberglass business do not come cheap.

What about the cost of the molds, you may ask? Good question. And you have to start with the prototyping process. Very time consuming, very expensive, and you have to be able to think several steps ahead while designing accordingly. For example, you must consider how difficult it will be for the laminator to handle the mold, how the parts will be trimmed and separated from the mold, how you will have to ship the parts (which is affected by size and shape), etc. And THEN you get to the cost of making the mold.

Molds are very expensive, and they have a finite life; i.e., they will only last through so many parts made before they have to be replaced. So whatever it costs to make the molds must be divided out over the estimated production life to recoup the initial investment and set aside money to replace the tooling...assuming the parts continue to sell, or sell at all.

Every new mold is a gamble for the manufacturer, and the losing bets sometimes outweigh the winners. If you don't make up the losses elsewhere, you go out of business. Simple and cold.

And none of the discussion above covers the basic costs of being in business, like rent, equipment and tools, electricity and water, advertising and marketing, business licenses and insurance, etc.

It's easy to see what a dicey business proposition this fiberglass business is, just by looking at how many fiberglass manufacturers have gone OUT of business: Dozens, even in the very small Z car market.

So, please bear this in mind before you complain about the "high cost" of fiberglass parts.

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