One thing many individuals in the automotive aftermarket have in common is their passion for the industry. But even the most motivated individuals can’t keep all of the forces affecting repair away.
There is one particular issue that hits close to home for many repair shop owners, and that is the overall shortage of labor. After all, it can be difficult to keep up with a rapidly changing aftermarket if the talent pool is lacking.
This is an area that Susanna Gotsch, senior director and industry analyst for CCC Intelligent Solutions, has studied closely. Gotsch is also the author of the annual Crash Course Report, which provides data relevant to the automotive aftermarket.
“We just don’t have enough technicians to help process the existing work,” Gotsch says, “and the types of repairs that are now coming in are more complicated. They take longer.”
While sorting through and analyzing relevant data pertaining to the automotive industry over this past year for Crash Course, she has received a full perspective of the labor shortage impact. Simultaneously, shops find themselves navigating through a rapidly advancing and technologically charged aftermarket.
The combination of technology-based vehicle advancements and a less-than-substantial workforce is proving to be a difficult challenge.
“When you start to think about more vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems, telematics, connected vehicle technology, all of those things add to repair complexity,” Gotsch explains. “And also new skill sets required for repairers and their technicians.”
Essentially what this means is, in addition to finding qualified technicians who are willing to learn about technology, shops also need to be willing to adapt and grow in terms of vehicle technology themselves.
“In terms of how repairers adapt, I think doing whatever they can to attract new talent, make sure that their folks feel engaged and that they are given new opportunities to develop and get the proper training to be able to repair these types of technologies,” she says. “Also I think another key opportunity is to really take advantage of the technology that is out there.”
Some strategies that Gotsch recommends include implementing a new estimation process, setting up a system that sends text messages to customers rather than having to call them individually, or utilizing new software to streamline the shop’s overall processes.
“All those things, I think, can help put a structure in place to help alleviate some of the administrative tasks and ensure that the standard operating procedures are followed and that things are not missed,” Gotsch says.
Knowing that those initiatives are in place can help shops to shift focus onto other areas that may need some attention. This is where EVs and technology-based education come into play.
Gotsch explains that even though EVs only accounted for about 3 percent of overall vehicle sales in 2021, it is still important to note that some major increases remain to be seen yet.
More EV models are anticipated to be released in the near future, as a broader range of automakers has shown interest in the pursuit. It is worth a shop’s time to be prepared.
At the same time, Gotsch acknowledges that gaining access to some of this education and implementing equipment that helps to address advanced technology repairs in vehicles isn’t cheap.
“It does require repairers to make some pretty significant investments,” Gotsch says.
However, not all of this needs to be addressed at once.
“The bottom line is the growth in the vehicles is going to ramp up,” Gotsch says in reference to electric vehicles. “But I think the repairer community has an opportunity to adapt because it’s not going to change things overnight.”
She cites the need for more charging infrastructure throughout the United States and the need to help drivers get comfortable with range anxiety that must be tackled before the aftermarket drastically shifts.
But regardless, it remains important to remember that ADAS, a major component in many electric vehicles, can be found in ICE and hybrid vehicles, too.
“When you look at EVs, they are sort of the poster child for all of the new technologies that are being introduced into cars,” Gotsch says.
Vehicle technology does not exist in a vacuum, and it is privy to change. That’s why Gotsch believes that it is in a shop’s best interest to stay on top of these changes. It could prove to be crucial in regards to recruitment and retainment efforts alike.
Ultimately, knowledge is power. Each manufacturer tends to have its own way of implementing ADAS technology, so the more educated brains behind the repair, the better.
Shop owners should seek out opportunities to educate their technicians on ADAS and find ways to implement this education in their shops. Taking steps in this direction will steer a shop towards the future, and help them continue to offer relevant repair options for their customers.
This is important because vehicle technology is a big topic to tackle, so getting involved with it sooner rather than later will help set a shop up for success, especially as more and more technological advancements enter the industry.
“Even just around calibrations there is an immense amount of variability,” Gotsch says. “There is a lot of new technology being introduced.”
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, check out the episode titled “CCC on Navigating Shifts in the Aftermarket” from the ADAPT Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts.