Impact of High-Tech Cars on Repair Businesses
In Minnetonka, Minnesota, Brandon Mehizadeh oversees a collision shop facing the challenges posed by high-tech cars. A recent incident involving a Cayenne SUV damaged in South Dakota sheds light on the broader issue—modern vehicles, laden with sensors and computer chips, are transforming the repair dynamics for shops worldwide.
Unraveling the Dual Face of Automotive Advancements
- Cars are getting more intricate and computerized.
- Celebrated for safety but bringing a challenge.
- Complexity directly affects consumers.
- Repair demands specialized knowledge and scarce tools.
Tech Shift Parallel
- Similar to farmers adapting to modern tractors.
- Akin to their struggles, causing delays and fewer repair shops.
Over the past decade, the auto industry has witnessed a decline in independent shops, driven by consolidation and retirements. In 2021, 327 independent shops were acquired by multiple-shop owners, intensifying this trend. Consolidation, coupled with pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions and a shortage of skilled technicians, has significantly decreased the number of available repair shops.
The Changing Equation: Vehicles, Service Bays, and Repair Times
In 2016, there were 225 cars on the road for every active service bay in the U.S. Today, that number has risen to 246 vehicles per bay. According to CCC Intelligent Solutions, pandemic-related supply-chain issues have exacerbated the problem, causing repair times to increase by an average of 2.1 days in 2021 compared to 2019.
Navigating the Complexity: Tools, Training, and Industry Challenges
Tools in Demand
- Repair tasks, like realigning a car, have become more time-consuming.
- Advanced driver-assistance systems contribute to this complexity.
- Repairers now need specialized knowledge for tasks.
- Training for the calibration of sensors and cameras is essential.
- The shift in car complexity poses a challenge.
- Auto shop owners face difficulties due to the demand for specialized and expensive tools.
Balancing Act for Auto Shop Owners: Investments and Industry Transformation
Investing in the tools and training needed to repair modern vehicles can set auto shop owners back by millions. A 2019 industry survey reveals that nearly half of auto shop proprietors were 60 or older, with 30 percent considering leaving the industry by 2024. This financial burden and impending retirements paint a challenging picture for the future of auto repair.
The Bleak Reality: Insurers, Skilled Workers, and Industry Transformation
Laura Gay, a former collision repair business owner, paints a gloomy picture of the current state of car repair. Reimbursements from insurers struggle to match the rising costs of fixing complex cars, and the industry faces challenges in attracting skilled workers. This transformation from a simple to a complex industry leaves many shop owners physically and mentally drained.
The Future Landscape: Busier, Different, and Tech-Savvy
Industry experts predict the repair crunch will worsen in the next 10 to 15 years as demand exceeds the available workforce. Surviving auto shops are expected to become busier and look different from their predecessors. Businesses are now eager to attract a new generation of workers excited about electric cars and automated driving technology.
Rethinking the Auto Repair Shop Stereotype
As the traditional auto repair shop undergoes changes, the stereotype of the grizzled and grimy auto repair tech may disappear. Lucas Underwood, a North Carolina shop owner, notes that the complexities of modern cars make it challenging for shops without proper funding, insurance, and tooling to operate effectively.
Hope in Tech-Oriented Workers and Industry Investments
In Minnesota, Mehizadeh sees a ray of hope as new workers, particularly those with a tech-oriented background, enter the trade. Investments in training technicians for specific car models reflect a commitment to ensuring the industry’s future.
Amid the challenges, the ongoing technological revolution in the automotive world presents an opportunity for innovation and adaptation in the auto repair industry.
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