News of a retiring mechanic who claimed the industry is “really getting difficult for old ones like me” sparked much debate in the GW forum and on social media recently.
Following the report on 80-year-old Alan Filby, many GW readers agreed that the increasing complexities of today’s cars is proving problematic for small garage businesses with many highlighting concerns about increasing business costs and a general lack of skills.
But not everyone is pessimistic about the future.
Commenting on the GW forum, Graham Beston of Fleet Service, Preston said: “The solution is to change your client base and by doing this you can provide the high standards and the most professional offering that only an independent workshop can provide.
“If there is no profit in it, we do not want the job”
“The only way to improve the bottom line is to pick your client base and then target them.
“The golden rule here is if there is no profit in it, we do not want the job.”
It’s an argument backed by Frank Harvey, head of member services at the Independent Garage Association (IGA).
He said: “There is a lot of investment needed in diagnostic tooling and training but it’s an investment that will ensure your business is there for the long-term.
“You really need to understand the market place in which you are operating because it’s easy to get into a race to the bottom by cutting your rates.
“In reality, you’re probably better value if your rates are higher because it will mean you’re able to invest in new equipment and training for your mechanics.
“It can be a chicken and egg situation but it’s about longevity.
“Reinvest profits into staff and equipment”
“Speak to anyone in business and it’s always been a case of needing to reinvest profits into staff and equipment.”
Wendy Williamson, chief executive of the Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF), told GW Views that the aftermarket is resilient and encourages garage owners to “embrace this change”.
She added: “Of course there are ongoing challenges we have to face, but it has to be remembered that vehicle manufacturers are under immense pressure too, as we see the decline in the internal combustion engine and the rise of new technologies with new entrants – meaning there are opportunities here for the aftermarket to seize upon.
“There are also great training opportunities available on new hybrid and electric vehicle (HEV) technologies – many technicians are already trained but there are plenty of options out there to enable technicians to work on the latest vehicle and latest technologies.
“As a result of block exemption regulation and type approval the necessary tools, equipment and right to access data and repair vehicles is all available to the independent automotive aftermarket.”
Mentioning the general public’s stereotypical view of independent garages, Frank suggested that a new era of motoring could “breathe new life” into the workshops.
“Opportunity to attract young people”
He said: “The sector has always been portrayed negatively in the media but we now have an opportunity to attract young people into the industry who are passionate about electronics and diagnostics.
“We’re now at that crossroads where investment and training is really needed, even among the more mature technicians because we’re already seeing new vehicle technologies enter workshops.
“We mustn’t forget the fundamentals and overlook the experience of older mechanics have but we need to back-fill that knowledge with a younger generation that embraces new technology.”
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