Auto Service World
News   September 12, 2023   by Bob Ward

From the Magazine: It’s your Turn: Taking on the new competition

We need to showcase why we’re a better choice than the dealers for vehicle service

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As independent automotive repair shop operators, we can’t sell ourselves short.

As dealers look to make more money, they’re coming after our prime business: Vehicles in the aftermarket sweet spot; those out of warranty where the owner typically turns to our industry for all of their servicing needs.

With the lack of new car sales, they’re looking to attract older ones to keep business churning.

But the consumer has to know that we’re the better choice.

The dealers have more money behind them to market their services. But what we have over them is the ability to provide better service and more transparency in the services we provide to consumers’ vehicles.

Let’s start from the moment they need to reach us. When a customer calls, they’re actually able to talk with someone rather than navigate frustrating phone systems.

Our staff gets to build relationships with customers. Dealers have a lot of turnover, making those relationships difficult to maintain for any meaningful period.

Remember, our techs are trained on working on all vehicles not just the ones dealerships sell. So we’re multi-faceted. We’re used to seeing all sorts of issues, diagnose and repair. Our experience is wide-ranging. Even if they’re willing to take on all makes, their experience doesn’t match up with our techs who are all skilled, licensed people.

Safety is a priority at all shops but is explained better to customers at independent shops because the service advisors are highly trained in vehicle maintenance and repair.

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We’re also using our products that are warranty-approved, so there is no concern when it comes to vehicle warranties. In fact, customers should consider us a third party that is unbiased about recommending warranty repairs. Our technicians understand vehicle warranties and can spot potential warranty issues before the warranty runs out and can advise customers on how to deal with dealerships in warranty matters. I’ve had to use dealerships for warranty work and have seen their shortfalls first-hand.

And we service vehicles in a timely manner — sometimes while customers wait, eliminating those long waiting periods after dropping the vehicle off for basic maintenance.

And independent shops allow customers to talk to the techs and see their vehicle in the shop so repairs can be explained so customers understand what is being done.

None of this is to say that dealerships are bad places to take a vehicle for service but customer convenience is not their strength.

So we need to promote these advantages more. That’s how we get customers to stay with us for a long time.

While dealers may try to take our business, I don’t feel they’re a threat to our service business — as long as we promote the conveniences our shops offer over them.

Think of it this way: It’s comparable to vehicles serviced at quick lube shops — in and out quickly. That’s not good.

Let’s band together as a professional group and attract more business to our bays by focusing on convenience.

Bob Ward is the owner of The Auto Guys in St. Thomas, Ontario

This article originally appeared in the August issue of CARS.

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1 Comment » for From the Magazine: It’s your Turn: Taking on the new competition
  1. Rick says:

    Marketing is key

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