At Today’s Shops, the Trend is Up, Up… Up?
Editor’s Note: Interstate Batteries® originally published the following four-part series as a full-length article titled “At Today’s Shops, the Trend Is Up, Up… Up?” in the winter 2011 issue of CURRENT magazine. We’ve edited the 1,600-word piece into more manageable chunks to save you from Computer Vision Syndrome and to preserve our blog’s servers. You’re welcome. Here’s the first part.
Repair Shop Manager Mike Holmes tossed out his schedule to get used to what he called “the new normal.” Repair Shop Owner Brian Handlon called record high and low sales the new nomral. A shop owner outside of Phoenix sees the new normal when cars with surprisingly heavy mileage pull into his garage. The new normal sends about 40 more cars into a Portland, Ore., repair shop than in 2008. And in upstate New York, the new normal has all but killed the tune up.
For all the owners of these shops, the new normal started in 2008 when the business of car repair changed.
“The constants aren’t there anymore. We’ll be busy one day, slow the next,” said Brian Handlon, owner of Handlon Bros. Auto Parts and Service in Harper Woods, Mich. In one year, his repair shop, which he owns with his brother Dave Handlon, had its best quarter in 30 years – followed by six abysmal months. In the end, the bottom line made 2009 an average year.
Also, customers can be more fickle than in previous years. Rather than wait an extra day for an oil change or brake job, customers will seek out repair shops that can take care of their cars in the same afternoon.
“It’s been different than it was,” said Holmes, manager of Holmes Auto Repair, an Interstate dealer in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. It was customary for Holmes’ shop to be scheduled two to three weeks ahead. “Now, we’re normally going to do repairs the same day if not the next.”
“The tune up is a thing of the past,” said East Avenue Auto’s owner Paul Marone in Rochester, N.Y., adding oil changes became the new tune up. And honest advice became the new aggressive advertising.
Aging cars with more than 200,000 miles, the post-recession customer base and a fight for customer loyalty – all these factors changed the business of car repair. Instead of seeing regular repair schedules at 30,000, 60,000 and 90,000 miles, repair shops are busier than ever maintaining cars that would have been considered too old to repair.
While cars last longer, new manufacturer warranties seem to stretch longer, too – but then customers are driving their cars harder than in years past. While repairs can sound expensive to customers concerned about job security, they’re shelling out the green to avoid an extra car payment.
So, what’s behind the new normal? And more important, what does it mean for your business?
- Auto body shops say they, not insurers, should set costs (usatoday.com)
- Mystery solved: How car batteries work | ScienceBlog.com (scoop.it)