Every year the choices for getting your vehicle serviced by qualified technicians is shrinking. In 1987 the number of Auto Repair facilities in the town of Burlington was 21 shops with 166 service bays. Today, there is only one new facility in Burlington, Herb Chambers Audi/Porsche. The remaining facilities total 11 with about 113 service bays. These are mostly located at the three Herb Chambers dealerships and Sears Auto Center.
Why is this happening? In short, the newer cars are made better than older vehicles so they break down less often. The need to perform a yearly tune-up does not exist, Fuel injection replaced carburetors, most vehicles have all-season tires, so no need to put on the snow tires every winter. This has led to a decreased demand for the services that my fellow technicians and I provide.
So why do the auto makers build vehicles that are more reliable? I believe this is a complex question. A few reasons that come to mind are: To gain market share, the EPA required better fuel economy and tighter emissions standards, and the NTSB (Along with other agencies) have demanded safer cars for U.S. drivers. So thats good news for consumers.
As long as their building better cars and there is some place to go for service, GREAT!!! As a consumer myself, my concern is options or lack there of. Lack of options can mean, higher costs, extended times to get in for service, and the possibility of poorer quality of service overall. Having competition is GOOD for everybody involved. It supports the idea that if I provide a service at a reasonable cost, complete the job in a timely manner, with no mistakes, then it should be a safe assumption that this customer will return fo service.
I have another imperative requirment for my shop. Educating the consumer so that after all repairs are complete, they do not experience buyers remorse. I need to know that we did everything we could to help our customer make an informed decision that they will not regret later. I believe this is the missing quality that the larger repair facility’s have not and will not address. My impression is that they are purely profit driven. Even if your at the dealership and the service adviser does not recommend repairing the vehicle, but gives you a number for someone in the sales department, it’s still profit driven. The advantage for smaller shops is we are not tied to any brand. If we were in a similar situation, we could recommend more choices based on value to you, the consumer. Our only concern at this point it to make sure your needs are met.
How about qualifications? Aren’t dealer technicians better? Yes…and No. The advantage dealer techs have over me is they only work on one type of vehicle. In theory, it “should” be safe to say that makes them better. In my experience – not always. When I was a dealer tech, I had access to the latest technology, training, and equipment. One problem that I experienced personally was that my diagnostic skills weakened. I didn’t have to think. If I put in a part and it didn’t work, I would just remove it and try something else. We could do this because our dealership also sold parts and would take back everything, not so in the aftermarket world.
As an independent technician/service provider, I have had to make a LOT of investments to be sure we are ready for what ever rolls in the door. At Accurate Automotive, I have purchased well over $200,000 in dealer level diagnostic tools; $150,000 in tire changing and wheel alignment equipment, and another $150,000 on a complex infrastructure so that we can operate as smoothly as possible and provide a great experience for my customers. To put those numbers into perspective, we are only a four bay facility. So that investment was $125,000 per bay. Times have definitely changed!!! After making this investment in equipment, we also had to find good training that is ongoing. And we did!! I am soooo glad we did this. It has allowed us to grow as a company, and personally grow as technicians. I know we are ready to meet any technical challenge that comes up.
This investment was not a guarantee we would succeed, but it was necessary to stay current. Thankfully it payed off for us. But not every repair facility has been so lucky or willing to make that commitment. I believe this is another reason there are fewer and fewer young people following this career path. I have seen plenty of statistics to back this up.
My reason for this article was to define who we are as a company and to assure you that Times are Changing, and thankfully so are we.
Brian Hohmann, owner of Accurate Automotive