When the pandemic hit, the government listed auto repair and maintenance workers among essential critical infrastructure workers. Vehicle repair and maintenance shops thus remain open.
They are still subject to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pandemic health and safety guidelines, though. This means that car repair and maintenance workers must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) designed not just against the usual hazards of their job but also Covid-19. This also includes always wearing a mask. Workers must sanitize all surfaces and tools they touch as they go. They must also keep six feet away from the next person. Workers who feel sick must not come to work.
Even while they remain open, auto repair and maintenance shops are experiencing a slump in business. Because most people are working from home, they use their vehicles only for essential trips like grocery shopping. There is less wear-and-tear and fewer possibilities of collision accidents.
People are also facing financial uncertainties as many lost their jobs or had salary cuts. Because of this, many major and costly car repairs were most likely postponed.
Newer car models are also built to have a less frequent need for changing oil and filters, affecting one of the most lucrative services offered by auto repair and maintenance shops.
Vehicle repair shops still have some customers, though. Those who also work in essential businesses still need car repair and maintenance to get to work. Many of them are in the medical field. With fewer customers, many auto repair and maintenance shops are barely surviving; hence belt-tightening is necessary. For instance, they must look for a tire-changing machine at a sale price if they need one.
Even as some people are venturing out more, many remain leery of using public transport. To avoid health risks, they prefer to drive their own vehicles. This led to a rebound in car sales in the last quarter of 2020 after a decline in the first half of the year. Manufacturers expect even higher sales this year. These cars will provide more business for the vehicle repair and maintenance industry.
Some people still need to scrimp, though, and they opt to purchase used cars instead. These will require more repair and maintenance than new vehicles.
Responding to Challenges
Owners of car repair and maintenance shops must address the financial hardship faced by many of their customers. If they want to encourage these customers to avail themselves of much-needed but expensive repair, they can offer multiple financing options. This will be a win-win solution.
Observers noticed that a growing number of people are leasing instead of buying cars. This means they will be relying on the leasing company or dealership for repair and maintenance. An auto repair and maintenance shop owner can arrange with a leasing company or dealership to sub-contract repair and maintenance for them. This will save them the expense of purchasing their own repair and maintenance equipment.
The latest models of cars are vastly different from old models. They come automated and digitized. Some are fully electric or are hybrids. They have telematics or telecommunications integrated with more sophisticated computers, vehicular technologies, and electrical engineering. Various companies are racing against each other in developing self-driving cars.
With all these innovative technologies comes a shortage of professionally trained automotive technicians. The Auto Care Association (ACA) is partnering with universities to teach science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses to future automotive technicians.
The ACA is also a partner of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) in awarding the World Class Technician certification to professional technicians who passed ASE certification in 22 specialty areas.
The ASE offers 52 tests for certification for various specialties such as automobile, medium to heavy truck, collision repair, and others. The tests are tough, with only two out of every three test-takers passing at first try. The ASE also provides information on emerging technologies related to connected and automated vehicles (CAV), such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), vehicle communications, and over-the-air (OTA) updates.
Here to Stay
Pandemic or not, there will always be vehicles on the road and these vehicles will always need repair and maintenance. For this reason, auto repair and maintenance businesses and workers are essential even amidst Covid-19.
Car care businesses will always be around if they keep up to date with developments in the auto industry. This is a huge challenge because advances in technology are happening so fast.
The young breed of automotive technicians will most likely be up to the challenge, though. They belong to the generation that grew up amid information technology (IT) and artificial intelligence (AI) in gadgets and games, hence handling new technology in cars will be second nature to them.