Auto Service World
Feature   December 1, 2009   by Auto Service World

Attention: Forward-Looking Statements

While there is little doubt there is much from 2009 to talk about, it is important to view the current economic and business environment in the context of looking forward to 2010. And there is certainly much cause for optimism.

The Right to Repair developments will, I am sure, bring access to repair information and tools to the entire aftermarket over the next few months. There will probably be a couple of bumps along the road–there always are with this kind of thing–but the core of committed parties gives great confidence of a positive outcome.

That will surely help the independent shops out there to capture some of the maintenance and repair business left without a home due to the closure of hundreds of car dealers, which is also good news for our side of the service world.

Of course, not every car dealer that lost its franchise has closed its doors. While those that are converting to independent facilities (the typical blueprint is a combination of independent service and used car dealership) may bring added competition to the local markets they serve, they will also bring a business management approach from which we can all benefit.

Of course, alongside this shift in the service sector, and the loss of thousands of service bays as a result of the economic shock delivered over the last year, consumers, too, have had their service patterns disrupted.

It is notable that while the average kilometres driven in 2009 dropped significantly, by about 1,500 kilometres (about 8%) from 2008, according to the J.D. Power and Associates Customer Commitment Index Study (though some may be attributable to the dropping out of two-year-old vehicles from the survey), the average mileage on cars being serviced by almost all categories of service outlet is creeping up. (For more details on the study, check out the 2010 Jobber News Annual Marketing Guide.)

I am particularly struck by the rise in the average mileage on eight-to 12-year-old vehicles hitting the quick lubes, up from 167,000 km to 176,000 km, rivalling the average for vehicles frequenting independent repair outlets in this age group. This may mean that car owners have opted to get oil changes rather than expose themselves to the possibility of a thorough inspection, and if it does, it is evidence of maintenance delayed. For vehicles of this age, delays can be expensive, so shops will need to be at the ready to serve these customers with an option that will keep their cars properly serviced.

At the other end of the spectrum is the younger vehicle, which is really where the independent aftermarket can make some hay–provided the parts supply chain can keep up. Because J.D. Power and Associates dropped the two-year-old vehicle from this year’s study, correlating the data for those youngest vehicles from year to year is tough, but the four-to seven-year-old category shows an increase in average odometer readings of about 2%; that may not seem like much, but when it pushes those vehicles further over the 100,000 km mark, it can have a significant psychological impact on where people take their cars for service, playing even further into the independent aftermarket’s strengths.

Together all these factors spell significant opportunity for the aftermarket, some of it still pent up awaiting an increase in consumer confidence, which is also creeping up.

All signals point to better days ahead.

This time around, Happy New Year is more than a greeting: it’s a promise.

— Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor



Undercar and Underhood product sales tips to keep your bottom line glowing are the focus in January.

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