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Report forecasts growth for independents

A suvey by market specialists ACA Research has revealed that Australia’s independent automotive servicing and repair sector is one of the best performing service industries.

The research, which was carried out by ACA on behalf of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA), also highlighted the confidence among many independents and the positive prospects at hand. 

Stuart Charity, director of the AAAA, said: “The AAAA wants to assist the independent automotive workshops of Australia to grow and develop their businesses – and the most effective way to achieve this is through detailed market intelligence, the extent of which we have not done before.

“We also wanted market data to accurately challenge the notion that independent repairers were not equipped or experienced enough to service and repair new vehicles, which this independent study clearly reveals is currently one of our industry’s biggest growth sectors.”

A total of 250 independent repair and service facilities were interviewed by the ACA, including small family business and larger chains such as Repco, in a study which is the first of its size carried out by the AAAA.

The results of the study indicated that 44 per cent of workshops had experienced a year-on-year increase in business, while 48 per cent expected their business to grow over the next year.

A third of workshops also reported that their customer base remained consistent, returning for annual checks and work. 

This correlates with a recent AAAA consumer study, carried out by Australian research company The Klein Partnership, which revealed that 86 per cent of customers that used local workshops were loyal to them. 

Happy customer! A smiling Latin descent woman discusses automobile repair invoice with an auto mechanic in a repair shop. She is discussing the vehicle’s repairs with the mechanic, who is explaining her service. Toolbox, workshop background. Unidentifiable, SUV-style vehicle.

Many independents have also been expanding into new areas, investing in advanced technology and training, allowing them to service more modern cars.

This, in conjunction with improved marketing, has boosted their customer base. The AAAA attributes this, in part, to the increasing awareness that using independent workshops will no longer invalidate the warranty of a new car. 

As a result, many workshops reported increasing demand for servicing of vehicles that were still within their warranty periods – as well as increases in routine logbook servicing of diesels, four-wheel drives and European vehicles. 

However, several challenges for independent businesses were also outlined by the results of the survey.

Some 22 per cent of companies polled for information stated that they were in decline, due to problems attracting and retaining staff. Many also faced challenges in the form of access to suitable tools and repair information from manufacturers. 

Fortunately, the report followed the announcement that both Labor and Liberal parties are supporting a mandatory data sharing scheme in Australia.

Such a scheme would allow independent workshops access to the dealer data and software required to properly diagnose, repair and maintain new cars.

This will allow independent workshops to compete with main dealers, which in turn will bring in more customers and bolster business further.

That said, ACA’s report also cautions that workshops need to continue to invest in training, technology and marketing; if a company does not strive to draw in new customers with younger vehicles then it will likely continue to experience a decline in business. 

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