Blink your eyes and the end of the year arrives. So here is my take on this year’s Top 5 Events and Influences. Some of these were real game changers for this year’s business.
This time last year the wheels had started to wobble on a few businesses and within weeks, many saw their wheels go flying completely off in directions previously unknown. By January, there were a number of automotive parts manufacturers, tool manufacturers and OEM suppliers that experienced a significant downturn in business, and long-term planning became a thing of the past. Good companies tightened their belts, sought new markets, got creative and are still here. They continued to invest in their people and in tools and equipment to do their jobs better, more effectively and more thoroughly. Those who did not, closed their doors. The truth is, many businesses have still not seen a sustained return to “normal.” The good news is, when business returns, the companies that are still standing will be well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunity. The investments they made during the downturn will serve them well when business picks back up.
Cash for Clunkers:
Was this program a success? It depends on whom you ask. One can argue the finer points of how this played out, but the end result that matters to your business is that during the C4C timeframe, more of the cars that were sold were import nameplates. Long-term you will see the foreign portion of cars coming in for repairs continue to grow. This just means you better have the right tools and equipment to do the repairs.
The Female Customer:
She’s been important to your business for many years. According to Edmunds.com, women are responsible for 65-80% of all automotive repair and maintenance scheduling. Have you invested in making sure your shop is “female-friendly”? It could be as simple as a coat hook in the washroom so your client’s purse never has to touch the floor. Take a look around your shop today and see what you can do to make it more inviting for your female clientele. They hold a lot of dollars in their purses and you should be getting your share.
Though these vehicles may not be showing up at your shop for service yet, they are beginning to affect tools that are being developed. At the recent AAPEX and SEMA shows, we saw several companies that featured specialty tools for hybrids and electric cars. One that caught my eye in particular was the new Hybrid Battery System Analyzer from Midtronics. It’s a wireless piece of equipment that can find problem packs and cells before there is complete system failure.
Decline in Car Sales and Miles Driven:
With car sales down 23.4% from this time last year, and light truck sales down 27.6% from last year, it’s safe to assume we’re going to see a contraction in the sweet spot of service and repair some years from now. The good news is, vehicle parts and components are lasting longer than ever before, so the sweet spot of service has moved from the five-to-seven-year timeframe, to something more like the five-to-11-year timeframe. The fluctuations in gas prices and other costs have increased the public’s awareness of the need for vehicle maintenance. They are holding onto their cars longer, and are taking care of them so they last longer. Short-term, these declines felt painful, but in the long-term I think they will actually lead to a healthier aftermarket and continued business opportunities for the savvy repair shop. Continue to preach the value of a long-term commitment to the health of the vehicle to every customer who walks through your door.