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

Silver Linings

What goes up must come down. In automotive terms, where there is a decline in supply at one end, there should be an equal rise in demand at the other. Sure, over time shifts in demand may change the equation, but in the short term, service/parts demand really doesn’t change all that much.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: What the heck is Andrew blathering on about now?

It may not seem like it, but that first paragraph defines the impact of the car dealer closures as well as any explanation I have seen.

So, to continue in the question and answer format, how’s your car dealer-directed parts marketing strategy coming along? What? You don’t have one? You should. The car dealer market may be the biggest opportunity facing the traditional aftermarket jobber for some time–maybe ever.

When was the last time that a 20-bay independent service centre opened in your town? That is precisely what happens when a car dealer loses its franchise and opts not to close but to become a used car dealer or an all-makes service facility.

You have to remember that these dealers have lost their access to parts from the OES channel, and may have lost more than just access to new cars; their computer system connection, cataloguing, and parts supply chain will also be disrupted. They are at sea, and may have very little experience dealing with the independent service world. So get your tail in there and make sure they do it right.

One of the barriers you may have to overcome is cultural; many dealer personnel are used to feeling a greater sense of entitlement to the consumer, even if they don’t recognize it. Consumers may, for the first time, become aware that the dealer was not, in fact, part of the automaker they represented. They may want to wander to the traditional independents, or stay with the service provider they have been going to previously, if the option continues to exist.

And, of course, the issue of warranty work will evaporate for these newly independent facilities, at least in the terms they had become used to.

There are other things that they may not be aware of either, such as the quality of aftermarket products, programs, training, and other services available. There may even be some who, faced with closing because they didn’t know how they could possibly carry on, may change their mind when shown how much is available.

The bottom line is that amidst the turmoil that has beset the service sector lies a great opportunity for the aftermarket.

It’s not one to be taken lightly, nor handed out on a silver platter. But if we as an industry can realize the full potential of the changes, it will benefit the aftermarket in ways that are unpredictable today–but will surely make for a better aftermarket tomorrow.

— Andrew Ross, Publisher and



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