Auto Service World
Feature   June 1, 2012   by Andrew Ross


There’s a lot going on out there. Global economic news continues to be making headlines; U.S. employment figures bob and weave from month to month; resource prices seesaw on the whims of rolling and wildly different economic reports from disparate parts of the word.

Global economic forecasts are – both literally and figuratively – all over the map.

And closer to home, there is pressure to keep our economy growing and inflation in check, and all the while we have a government continually warning Canadians not to get over their heads in debt. When you have a government resorting to probably unprecedented direct intervention in lending institutions to keep lending rates up, it is strange days indeed.

With all this in mind, Canadians can be forgiven if they think there is more bad news than good out there, and are holding onto their dollars a little tighter.

But here’s the thing: there is significant evidence to suggest that they’re not doing that at all. Despite the ratcheting up of mortgage rules, Canadians are buying houses at a solid pace, and paying more for them. And they’re buying cars at almost the best pace ever, too. Last year was the best year in the last 10 for car sales.

Yes, there are humps and bumps in the economic performance statistics, but on balance the trends are going in the right direction.

In our little corner of the economic world, the automotive aftermarket is following this trend. While some parts of the country have seen the negative effects of a winter that seems to have hung on longer than expected (and probably pushed back spring activity as much as a month), on a broader scale the number of vehicles in the aftermarket’s sweet-spot age of seven to 11 years is strong. This trend is going to carry the aftermarket upward for at least the next three years, according to some forecasts.

I’m inclined to agree, but with a caveat: just because a market is growing doesn’t mean every player benefits.

For those in the distribution chain, it’s simply not enough to ride the wave. You also need to ensure that your customers are in a position to do the same as well. There are, quite simply, too many service provider business owners out there who refuse to change their method of operation to meet the new challenges.

In a world where vehicle owners are being trained by their car’s service reminders to visit a service facility as little as once a year, too many shops still fail to perform comprehensive inspections on every car in their bays. Too few reach out to customers, failing to use the tools that exist in their management system to build their business.

Accordingly, I believe that it is time for every jobber and WD concerned about their customer’s success to do two simple things: one, strongly promote the use of those customer relationship tools, and two, get customers a set of comprehensive inspection forms.

They may seem like simple things, and they are, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy. The idea is that it addresses two key issues: getting cars in the bay, and maximizing the opportunity when they’re there.

It’s a one-two punch that the aftermarket has the power to put in place, regardless of global economic headlines. I could go on, but I won’t keep you any longer. You have work to do.