Being in the auto repair industry is challenging these days.  The automobile is still very much alive and well, but the auto repair industry gets a great deal of flack for those who don’t do their work well – or overcharge, or just don’t care about their customers.

For those of you who do care, and who are excellent at what you do, here are a few things you can be thinking about in terms of the auto repair industry as you run your business:

The fascination with the auto repair industry is dwindling

Partly because of the fascination with the internet, the online world, video games, and other virtual elements, there are fewer kids growing up who are fascinated with cars and car parts, and have the desire or patience to get dirty and apply their minds to a task that is complicated and challenging.  Another reason for this is that there is more technology needed all the time to properly repair the modern vehicle, so there’s more to learn.  To combat this, consider starting an apprentice type of situation in your auto repair business.  Ask around for young people you know, or at the local technical college, who might be interested in learning the trade.  The best form of education is the hands-on one, especially when it comes to vehicle repair.

The auto repair industry as a profession is misunderstood

This is another major issue for mechanics – either they are seen to be fleecing the unknowing customer, or those who know a little about cars think it’s really not all that difficult.  Educate your customers as to what you know, what’s working, what isn’t, and how they can prevent repairs by taking preventive action.  You could consider sending out updates (either by email or direct mail) regarding some of the most common car problems, and how your customers can help themselves.  You’ll reap the benefits in the long run.

Environmental issues abound

From regulations on air quality to water quality to hazardous waste, environmental issues abound for auto repair shops.  This can increase your costs (and thereby the cost to the customer) without your customers truly understanding why. Again, make sure you are in the business of educating your customers about how your shop works and what you’re doing on their behalf to ensure smoothly running cars and excellent auto repairs.  Consider holding workshops or short seminars in your place of business.  Send out updates or write a letter explaining the new equipment you’ve bought and how it benefits your customers.  It’s not about bragging rights, but helping people understand what’s in it for them.  Always think of it from your customer’s perspective rather than your own.  They may not care how much you’ve spent on air quality permits, but they may suddenly realize how that is good for the painting and coating services you provide.

High technical knowledge, low marketing capability

Auto repair shops can often be really good at doing the repair work, but struggle with how to market themselves as a business.  This is a classic small-business-owner struggle encapsulated in Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth, which identifies the myth that just because you’re technically good at a particular type of work doesn’t necessarily mean you are equipped for the marketing and strategy aspect of running the business.  Some people can do both, but over time you’ll come to realize that your expertise leans more towards one or another side, and you can hire people to do the ‘other’ aspect.  We address marketing tips for the auto repair industry in a separate post.