Perspectives: Can Your Shop Handle More Cars?

Perspectives: Can Your Shop Handle More Cars?

Recently, I received an e-mail with a subject line that read, “Automotive Repair Crisis Grows as Number of Vehicles Per Service Bay Reaches Record High in 2006.”

According to the Aftermarket Annual 2006/2007, a study from Lang Marketing Resources, Inc. (www.langmarketing.com) the number of cars and light trucks on U.S. roads has increased by more than 39 million vehicles between 1996 and 2006, while the number of service bays to maintain and repair them has decreased by 44,000. The study goes on to report, “The number of vehicles per service bay in the U.S. soared between 1996 and 2006, creating a service bay crisis.”

As a repair shop owner, you have to be pretty happy to hear this news. Now you can go to bed at night dreaming of cars lining up outside your shop waiting for the opportunity to drive into your bays. Price will be a second thought to the motorists because they are desperate to have your service.

On second thought, maybe that’s not the way it will play out. There are a number of variables that influence the demand for service and the supply of bays.

There are more vehicles on the road and the average age of cars continues to increase, which increases demand for service. Meanwhile, sales of new cars have been strong for the last several years and newer cars need fewer repairs and have longer maintenance cycles — lessening demand for service.

All the things needed to run a business, including purchasing expensive equipment, paying qualified technicians, acquiring technical repair information and having an owner that is willing to work “on” the business rather than turning wrenches every day, must be in place to be successful. When they are not, it eventually forces a closure of the shop — decreasing the supply of service bays. To increase the supply, there are a few areas to look at:

  1. According to our research, the average shop has three technicians and has a car count of nine per day — three cars per tech per day. If you can get that number to four cars per tech per day, then the capacity for service has just increased by 33%. Now, I know shops that do more repair work have a lower count and those with more maintenance have a higher count, but maintenance will eventually lead to the higher dollar repair work.

  2. Do you have one technician using two bays because you are waiting on parts? The only reasons I can think of for this is that your nearest parts supplier is very, very far from your shop or you can’t find qualified techs to man the bays. Reducing the bay/technician ratio can increase productivity and increase the supply of working bays.

  3. How about that bay that has the “project” car that hasn’t been touched in two years or the one that is storage for old equipment and used tires; clean it out and get it working and the bay population has increased.

While dreaming about a day when business is easy because customers are beating down your door to get their cars serviced might seem like a waste of time, think of it as a planning exercise to help guide you into the future. The reality is your business is not getting easier and you need to think about where you need to take it to be more profitable.

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