Times Seem Okay For Repair Shops…But For How Long?

Halfway through the year 2020, in more ways than any of us would like to count, the answer to the question “How are you?” has hardly ever been more complicated.

Things seem…oddly okay at the moment, don’t they? Perhaps after a few months of seemingly endless calamity, we’ve gone a little numb to the sadness and weirdness that have defined this year as an economic, social, and emotional turning point. Daily coronavirus statistics continue to portray the notions of mayhem in some regions, with relative stability in others. Meanwhile, those of us who are fortunate enough to have kept or regained employment through the past few months have grown used to the measures we’ve adopted to operate in spite of the widespread economic slowdown, and in some cases, may have even seen some surprising upticks in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But let’s be clear, things only just seem okay. Think of the difference between how you feel the morning after a good night’s sleep, and the feeling of having had a lousy night’s sleep, while compensating for it with a few strong cups of coffee. Sure, you’re awake in both cases, and probably able to function well enough, but only one of those scenarios feels genuinely stable. Maybe by 9:30 AM you feel alright, but once the afternoon comes, all bets are off as to whether you’ll be able to stay focused, or even stay vertical. From the data we are seeing, we may still have some long nights ahead of us.

There’s evidence from Tekmetric’s select list of 500 repair shops that there has been an inverse relationship between a shop’s car count and average repair order; while the number of cars brought in per day dropped off in the beginning and middle of nationwide quarantine periods, in many cases, the ARO went up, later dropping down slightly as daily car count picked back up as stay-at-home orders began to expire. It’s suggested that the slowdown in customer traffic allowed technicians additional time to conduct inspections more thoroughly, catching potential areas for repair that might have previously gone unacknowledged, and recommending them to customers. While business has mostly recovered for repair shops, there are a wave of other factors that are about to keep us up at night.

Nationwide unemployment rates having skyrocketed in the past few months, with stimulus checks having been issued and spent, and with the temporary increase in weekly unemployment benefits set to expire without any agreement from Congress to continue them (at the time of publication), it’s quite possible that these economic measures have been the “coffee,” so to speak, that has kept auto repair businesses awake this year. And now that those are things in the past, there are some very real doubts as to the future stability of shops’ flow of business when the proverbial “afternoon” comes, both in terms of daily car count and average repair order value.

Another factor to consider that may slow the ability of many Americans to get their cars in for maintenance and repair is the restraint that many banks and financial institutions are showing in lending. Many car owners depend on credit and financing to cover the costs of significant car repairs, but as legal measures surrounding pandemic relief bar lending institutions from reporting deferred payments as late to credit-reporting groups like Transunion, Equifax, and Experian, these lenders are flying somewhat blindly at the moment. As of now, credit scores taken at face value may not truly tell the story of any given borrower’s ability to repay his or her debt.

As previously mentioned, while at the state level, statistics on new COVID-19 cases over time vary wildly; certain states such as Maine have largely flattened their curves, while many more populous states like Arizona and Texas have experienced recent spikes in cases. As much as we would all like to remain optimistic for the months ahead, it’s quite possible that many regions of the U.S. could potentially see new mandates installed that would inhibit transit, limiting the number of miles driven by populations, thereby decreasing the urgency of car repair. Until a proper COVID-19 vaccine is approved and readily available to the public, a repetitive, “Groudhog Day”-esque cycle of case spikes, stay-at-home orders, and business downturns isn’t a reality that any of us are exactly looking forward to, especially with the public’s safety net from our first go-around in potential jeopardy.

While we don’t have immediate control over how the public and our governments will navigate the remainder of this crisis, however long it’s fated to last, Autonet Mobile does offer the auto repair industry a lifeline that can give your shop the vitality that 2020 has made difficult to obtain. While nearly every auto repair shop has already pieced together in-house solutions for sanitation and the promotion of physical distancing between bodies, business continues in spite of these measures, rather than seizing on the innate opportunities inherent in this new reality.

Autonet’s vision for a reworked car repair process is capable of exceeding the requirements of a post-pandemic economic landscape. Our consumer-facing CarCure app has the capacity to provide data-backed pre-diagnostic input to interested customers in your shop’s area, schedule an appointment, select your shop for the vehicle’s needs based on your technicians’ experience and proficiency, and provide an outlet for payment. Additionally, our platform will soon offer consumers the opportunity to secure the financing that many institutions are making more difficult to secure. ShopCure, meanwhile, allows your shop to receive confirmation of an appointment, communicate with the customer regarding diagnostics and repair progress, receive repair approval, and accept payment. Under our ecosystem, nearly all of the typical steps of car repair can be performed remotely, and therefore, more safely amid current conditions. Rather than sacrifice efficiency for hygiene protocol, both customers and shops have an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a two-way system that removes all of the barriers that distance traditionally creates, and which exploits all the advantages of mobility.

Things may seem okay for the moment, but we’re proud and excited to offer auto repair shops nationwide a way to avoid future pitfalls ahead, and to thrive through the next wave of whatever this year throws at us, rather than just survive!

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