Auto Service World
Feature   April 26, 2012   by CARS Magazine

Closing up shop

Another engine rebuilder calls it quits. Technology just keeps moving forward, leaving more and more business models in question.

The story could appear in almost any newspaper in Canada – from the largest daily to the smallest weekly.

An engine rebuilder is closing his doors because the industry has changed and revitalizing aging engines isn’t feasible as a business model any more.

Most recently, that story was told in Ontario’s Hamilton Spectator. Matt Bauer of Auto Service & Supply is shutting his Vine Street machine shop after nearly 70 years of rebuilding engines there.

You can read the whole story HERE, but in a nutshell, Bauer used to have as many as 30 employees. Now he’s down to three… and there’s barely enough work to keep them busy.

The company has been purchased by Head & Block, a machine shop in nearby Stoney Creek, Ont. Head & Block is now the Hamilton area’s only remaining business of its kind.

For decades Auto Service & Supply specialized in custom engine repairs for local dealers, restoration work for vintage cars, and performance modifications. They’ve even expanded out of automotive into marine, recreation vehicle, and agriculture work.

The decline in work is a byproduct of engine evolution – particularly the end of carburetion – and the move to replaceable electronic parts, rather than fixable mechanical components.

And, of course, they last longer. Breakdown repairs are pretty much a thing of the past.

Rebuilding an engine is labour intensive. It’s hard for consumers and dealers to justify the cost.

Bauer says his business has been “beat up.”

It’s a phenomenon that worries some in the automotive repair and service industry.

Roger Sampson, owner of Sampson Transmission in Hamilton, Ont., and a member of the Canadian Technician Advisory Panel, says the development saddens him… and makes him wonder about the future of his own niche in the market.

“To me, this is a sign of things to come,” he says. “We rebuild transmissions. Are we next in line?”

It’s a thought that’s worthy of a conversation or two. It is widely believed that demand for automotive service (if not repair) will continue well into the future. Any machine that relies on the transfer of heat into forward motion, with its attendant friction and wear, is going to require maintenance – especially if it is operated by people in the harsh extremes of climatic elements and varying terrains.

But what about the rebuilding of engines, transmissions, and system components? Is that a doomed profession?

Give us your thoughts on the future of the industry.

Think of your own business model. Will it still be viable in 50 years? 25? 10?

Tell us about the changes you’ve seen and how you’ve adapted to them.

We’ll put them in the magazine and start a discussion!


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