Future challenges no surprise to repair service chains

Jan. 1, 2020
CHICAGO ? Future challenges and those repair service chains currently face look a lot like those challenges theyíre facing today. Determining where things are going in the economy and with consumer behavior is critical to determining how to ad

CHICAGO — Future challenges and those repair service chains currently face look a lot like those challenges they’re facing today. Determining where things are going in the economy and with consumer behavior is critical to determining how to address both current and future challenges are addressed.

“Current challenges and future challenges blend together,” says Larry Magee, chairman, CEO and president, Bridgestone Retail Operations, LLC. “One of the first things that we need to determine is, is this flight of values a permanent shift in the landscape of consumer behavior or is it just a temporary shift. If it’s permanent, some business models need to change, merchandising needs to change and operational procedures need to change.”

Magee was part of a four-person panel discussing “How Automotive Repair Service Chains are Gaining Traction in Today’s Market” at the 2010 Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) on Tuesday.

John Warzecha

John Warzecha, senior vice president, franchise business development, Midas Inc., says his company is facing similar questions as it prepares for the future. He notes that the aftermarket needs to see if miles driven will increase and the average age of vehicles will decrease in order to understand the long-term effects this economy is having on consumers.

In order to prepare for that, the chains, like independent shops, must make sure they’re up-to-date on vehicle technology and technician training. Warzecha says that while the lead time on vehicles used to be four years, his company’s shops now are seeing hybrids.

“It requires us to be more timely in getting information and training out to our technicians,” he notes.

The evolution of technology on vehicles and access to information is changing, as is the makeup of people running these businesses today. Joe Biggie, vice president of strategy and development, Just Brakes, adds that not only does the changing technology affect what the technicians need to learn, but for service chains, techs’ interest changes. For his business, many technicians get to a certain point and want to learn more than the brake systems on vehicles.

“The future development to all technicians is, not just in our company but in the industry itself, of particular interest,” he states.

So while these execs make sure their businesses are ready for the future, they’re also dealing with those technology challenges and changing consumer attitudes currently.

“We’re basically in a problem business. Unfortunately, none of our consumers come in for prevention,” Biggie says. “They only come in when they have a problem, and that exists in the repair industry unilaterally across all aspects.”

Larry Magee and Joe Biggie

He says today’s consumers are better educated than before, to which Warzecha adds that they are a little bit pushier with repairs as well.

“We’re seeing a consumer that’s a little more requiring, more value conscious and less patient,” Warzecha explains. “The market has always been plagued with a market of distrust and it’s something we’ve had to deal with certainly all my career.”

Because consumers are more leery of what they’re getting for their money, Biggie says his company has opened its shops to show the consumers repairs and have them involved in the repair process from beginning to end.

The panelists all note that challenges now will be similar going forward. Add to that the business side of things with changing regulations at the national, state and local levels, changing marketplaces and economic uncertainty among consumers, and the service chains, like independent shops, have a lot to face.

Check out other coverage of GAAS 2010.

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