Auto Service World
News   June 26, 2018   by Allan Janssen

Just Ask Bob: How will shops change in the next five years?

Management trainer Bob Greenwood tackles your questions for an upcoming video series. If you’ve got a management question, now’s the time to send it in!


Management trainer Bob Greenwood has put out a call for reader questions… and they’re rolling in! He’ll be offering his perspectives in an upcoming series of videos.

If you’ve got an issue or concern, or you’re just curious about how some of the numbers in your business come together, feel free to send in your question– either directly to Bob at greenwood@aaec.ca, or in the comment section below.

Here’s a question from Eric Mileham, owner of Green Tree Auto Care in Orangeville, Ont.

What do you think the minimum number of bays will be in five years?

Bob will offer a full answer in the next season of Greenwood’s Garage, but for now, here’s a teaser. Bob writes:

Eric this is a great question. Realistically, we can expect a consolidation within the independent aftermarket over the next few years. The select few who truly “get” the big picture will have a great career and profession. I believe shops will need a eight to 10 bays to be profitable. This will include at least one or two very clean diagnostic bays where programing and vehicle “calibration” will take place.

I don’t see the independent aftermarket working on all makes and models for much longer. In fact the decision of which two or three brands shops choose to specialize in should be answered within the next 12 to 18 months. The reason for this is simple. We are seeing very complex vehicles with hundreds of millions of lines of software code. The amount of training and equipment needed to effect repairs will be extremely high. Technicians will essentially be highly paid software analysts. They will have to understand the software platforms on these high-tech machines. How will any shop realistically be able to look after all makes and models?

This means the owner must learn truly how to be a CEO and run the company and instill a learning culture and accountability.

It also means relationships with other shop owners will change. Independents may have to start looking after each other’s clients. If your client has two vehicles, and you only handle one of the brands, you may end up taking that off-brand vehicle to a peer who specializes in it. In return, that shop owner will send you the off-brand vehicles that he doesn’t handle.

Bigger shops and more cooperation? Yes, the aftermarket is certainly going to change!

Thanks for your question.

—Bob

Stay tuned to Greenwood’s Garage, here on AutoServiceWorld. And send in your own question for Bob!


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2 Comments » for Just Ask Bob: How will shops change in the next five years?
  1. Interesting article to say the least as I see little of Bob’s predictions coming into play anytime soon, especially within the “12 to 18 months” as he predicts . (not around here anyway) New car sales are down annually as more and more people become less able to take the plunge economically or even demographically due to layoffs and plant closures etc.. Lets face it, the majority of people are money poor or indebted to the max these days. We routinely work on cars in our area (Trenton-Belleville), that are 10 to 25 years old and with the junk they’re building these days, I can’t see us slowing down at all for years to come in the mechanical and maintenance areas. Software updates have been few and far between here, it’s rarely ever required here at my shop. So little in fact, that I’m not willing to put out for a programming scanner or any software websites anytime soon. If I do tow a vehicle to the dealer for a reprogram, (after we diagnose a PCM etc. and install it)I make as much on the tow bill as I would have on the reprogram! We’ll just farm out these few cars to the dealer as we have far too much real money jobs on the go daily. We’re not slowing down, we’re getting busier buy the year and our numbers prove it. And, what’s with the “clean bay required” for diagnostics statement mean? When a tech is sitting in a car with a scanner why does it matter where the car is sitting? My shop isn’t the cleanest, but it’s certainly one of the busiest by far and my clients couldn’t give a damn about the appearance of my shop as they’re only concerned about the good job and the great service and price they received. We work on most makes and models but try to stay away from Mercedes, Volvo and BMW here as we can’t readily get parts for them and in many cases special tools are required. That’s all fine though as there is plenty of work out there with all the other makes and models. Bob says that techs will be highly paid software analysts, well where are these techs to begin with? I’ve advertised for diagnostic techs a few times over the years (any tech for that matter) and again, where are they? We’re willing to pay well by the hour and yet there are few techs out there , especially qualified diagnostic techs. The techs we have currently are highly skilled and can fix just about anything and I’m hanging on to them for the long term. As for expanding bays? We have 7 bays now and that’s just where we’re going to stay because we’re busy, and I don’t want to be any busier.

  2. Vern Goldsbury says:

    Change is coming wether a shop is open to change or not. Vehicles are changing, materials are changing. People are changing. Expectations are changing. Skill sets are changing and so are customer expectations. We operate several shops and we recognize the need to change. Manpower is a problem now and it will be in the future. My guess is a newly trained tech will prefer to work in a clean, well equipped shop that is willing and ready to embrace change than one that isn’t. As an industry those of us who are in it MUST change to attract new employees who are looking for a career and not just a job.

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