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Complex cars to bend repairers

Hammer time: The cost of access to car-makers’ data means many repair shops will need to narrow down the range of vehicles they service.

Technology will force specialisation in aftermarket repairs, industry warns

15 Apr 2013

AFTERMARKET repairers will need to become more specialised as vehicles get more complex, an industry spokesman has warned.

“We see specialisation as a trend,” Ben Bartlett, the senior manager for government relations and international at the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association, told GoAuto.

“We are seeing that because of where technology is going. Independent repairers will say, in actual fact, if I want to be competitive here, I need to specialise in two or three brands, not in every single vehicle.”

He said repair shops would also have to be more selective with business that came in off the street as more vehicles required specialist handling.

Instead, they would need to consider training in certain brands, Mr Bartlett said at a media briefing to open the Automotive Aftermarket Expo and Collision Repair Expo in Sydney.

“The issue we have is that the training is not available. It is all very well to say ‘we won’t supply data if they (the service technicians) are not trained’.

“It’s only the franchised dealers that have access to the training,” he said.

“We don’t expect free training. I think what we will see is more of this data coming available, and it will.

“Government has said we are going to have to make this (servicing and repairing cars) a fair playing field.

“But this data is not going to come free, the training is not going to come free, the specialist tools and equipment will also come at a cost, which is fine. That’s expected.

“That’s why we see specialisation increasing.”

Mr Bartlett said repair shops had “almost no option” in this matter, although he recognised it would not happen overnight.

“They will start to adapt. We might see specialised repair groups start to specialise in types of vehicles. We are already seeing it with the Bosch repairers.

“Because of Bosch’s contacts throughout Europe, a fair portion of the cars that go to the Bosch specialist repairers will actually often go because they are European vehicles and because Bosch repairers have got a lot of the specialist tools and equipment.”

But other repair shops may have to specialise in the sort of work they do, as opposed to the marques they work on.

Mr Bartlett said the results of a survey of AAAA membership offered conflicting results when members were asked to predict the areas of activity that would grow and which would decline.

“Products like four-wheel-drive and performance have always been on a growth path, but our members suggested that performance is one area where they expect a decline,” he said.

“What this shows is there is a lot more specialisation moving into areas like performance.

“What we are seeing now is that, with the technology evolving in vehicles, trying to supply a performance product off the shelf, where the customer can pick it up and take it with them, is not as easy as it was.

“Those that do it well are seeing growth. Those that haven’t got the special ability to fit the products, to understand the products, are finding it a much more challenging market.”

Declines in other products reflected improvements in the quality of standard vehicles, Mr Bartlett said.

“It’s not surprising, unfortunately, that we are seeing declines in audio and communications, even exhaust, given the quality of the components that come as standard. There is a slower rate of replacement.”

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