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How Can I Stay Competitive in the Auto Repair Market?

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1951-gm-lesabre
Back to the future: the groundbreaking 1951 GM Le Sabre

In the United States, there are currently 1.1 vehicles registered for every one person in the country (16-years-old and over). Simple math says there are more cars than people in America, and this is good news for the auto industry. Vehicles will always need to be serviced, and it’s nearly impossible to outsource this industry overseas. For both car enthusiasts and shop owners—and just about everyone who drives or will drive a car—the auto landscape is quickly changing in profound ways. The changes will affect everything about the owner/car relationship, and if auto-related businesses and DIY’ers (BendPak falls into this category) don’t stay on top of the market, their ability to service vehicles on both the professional and DIY levels will be reduced or fundamentally restricted.

The concept boils down to one idea: auto mechanics need to educate themselves in a much more “techy” manner than in the past, if they want to be able to service newer, more digitally-controlled vehicle processes. Plus, Mechanic under car consulting futuristic interfacethe auto repair industry, like it or not, is shrinking. Let’s look at some industry-busting stats. Millions of technicians are retiring now or in the near future, and there are not millions of young techs to replace them. At the same time, cars are lasting longer than ever before; the so-called “sweet spot” for aftermarket repairs today (6 – 11 years old) will only increase by the year 2020. In the next five years, the market will see 76 million vehicles at least 16 years old. This means that cars fitted with today’s technology are here to stay, which in turn means technicians need to be prepared to handle these advanced vehicles if they want to stay relevant against a shrinking and increasingly competitive base. Given that only 25% of car owners get their repairs done at dealerships, there’s no reason to believe Mr. and Mrs. Smith from the neighborhood won’t be stopping by your shop… if you’re certified to work on their vehicle. Also consider that while a little over half of the car market is projected to remain domestic, shops that service less-common sports cars, such as Ferraris and Jaguars, are going to stand out in the sea of professional shops that aren’t equipped for these jobs.

The best news for anyone who works on vehicles today is that many of the traditional methods of auto repair will always be in fashion. We’ll always need car lifts, and the sort of equipment that BendPak deals in (tire changers, air compressors, etc.) will always have a place in the auto field. Still, time only moves forward: technology improves and global safety standards become stricter, which means we have to constantly adapt our product lines to keep up with the times. If we didn’t, we’d be out of business by now or losing to our competitors. (Fortunately, this hasn’t been the case!)

Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi

Perhaps the biggest market change today is the switch to digital processes. This is more than an engine diagnostic on a laptop or tablet, although these devices remain incredibly useful. At this point in time, your ability to stay certified in new repair methods and car technologies is essential, and the one thing we know about technology is that it’s only going to get crazier, more impressive and more difficult to learn if we don’t keep up. Updated shop equipment needs to be purchased regularly, so unfortunately for customers and shops alike, expensive technology, training and equipment upgrades mean service costs aren’t likely to decrease any time soon. The few out there in the DIY sector who are able to keep up, however, are likely to flourish (the mythical half mechanic / half tech-pro).

DIY’ers out there might already be familiar with the Raspberry Pi, a nifty little computer chip that costs around $40.00 and allows technologically inclined users to program and track diagnostic information, repairs, software upgrades, etc. It’s a massive money-saver for the DIY crowd. On the other side of the fence, professional shops can program this sort of device to do almost any auto-related task. Remaining tech-savvy will help assure customers that they will always get the best from your friendly, motivated shop.

Wireless connectivity is another game-changing feature that’s fast becoming more and more a part of the auto repair world. Car manufacturers are already able to send downloadable upgrades, which potentially reduces body shop involvement in the upkeep of complex vehicle functions. This translates into lost revenue for auto shops. On the other hand, all technology, especially wireless technology, has the potential to break or malfunction, and anything on the web is vulnerable to hacking. Service shops certified to handle a multitude of wirelessly controlled devices will have a leg up on dealerships and other competing shops, but it will take an ongoing dedication to hiring and training auto mechanics on 21st-century services and technologies.

2013 Tesla Model S Dashboard Display
2013 Tesla Model S Dashboard Display

To this end, shop trainers need to bolster their response to increases in vehicle telematics, which refers to “the branch of information technology that deals with the long-distance transmission of computerized information.” We’re close to the day when auto shops across the country will be able to wirelessly deliver engine diagnostic data to customers before their cars even make it into the shop. This signifies a very real shift in the services you need to offer if you plan to stay ahead. Can you envision how powerful of a tool remote diagnosis could be? The marketing potential alone is worth the cost of getting your auto repair business prepared. Not to mention, you’re creating huge savings for customers and inspiring their trust, which means repeat business, which means referrals, etc. And that’s just one example of the changes to come!

By the way, digital content and marketing efforts are increasingly crucial to generating income. Ever notice how the company with the larger online footprint beats out the competition 100% of the time? Your competitors are collecting data on virtually every single move your collective customer base makes: web search results, price ranges, likes on Facebook, and so much more. Are you using the Internet to its full potential to attract customers and cut excess spending?

At BendPak, we try to stay ahead of our competition by offering customers as much access to our services as possible, including responsive toll-free customer service lines, Internet orders, multiple email contacts, etc. We also know we can always do better, so we’re constantly improving our products, website and means of connecting with our distributors. Even little details, ones that show our customers we keep up with the times, go a long way.

Are your mechanics ready for the new era of auto repair?
Are your mechanics ready for the new era of auto repair?

So here’s the bottom line: BendPak / Ranger products are always going to service your needs in the best way possible, but once we lift that 7,000-lb. Ford™ F-250 in the air, it’s up to you to have the right tools to deal with the new aluminum panels, advanced telematic displays, digital system checks, etc. Whether you work in a shop or from your own home garage, put in the work to stay ahead of the times and be happier (and richer) in the long run.

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