It’s hard to believe that 2021 is almost over and we’re already planning for 2022. Each year, I do a thorough business evaluation, talk with the CARSTAR corporate team, work with my vendor partners and follow the local and national news to identify the trends that will drive our business in the year ahead. A trend may sometimes be the result of a community issue; other times, it may be due to a global challenge, or it could be a new opportunity developing on the horizon.
As the owner of three CARSTAR locations in Sidney, Troy and Piqua, Ohio, I’m constantly tracking what’s next for our industry. Here are the five trends I see impacting the collision repair industry next year, along with the steps I’m taking to prepare for them.
Increased Vehicle Age
With vehicles lasting longer now, and a limited availability of new and used vehicles, we’re seeing older, higher-mileage vehicles come in for repairs. Today’s cars are built to last longer – when I started in this business, you didn’t want a car with 100,000 miles, and now that’s when they’re broken in. You also have to factor in that current salvage values are at record prices, which means we find ourselves repairing older vehicles than we normally would. This trend brings its own unique challenges with finding parts for repairs, some of which have been discontinued by the OEM. This is where a good working relationship with your local dealership and salvage yards really pays off. They can help source the older parts you need. It’s also important to have veteran technicians who can repair parts that may no longer be available.
Parts Sourcing Challenges
This closely follows the first trend – finding the right parts for your repair when you need them. It’s getting very challenging nowadays, especially because of the pandemic, which has been a game changer on parts availability. You really have to make sure you have everything you need before you disassemble a drivable vehicle. The last thing you want to do is disassemble, make it not drivable and then have to wait several weeks for a part. That kills your cycle time along with your customer CSI – and no one wins in that situation. Once again, this is where a good parts vendor who will do everything possible to get the parts is priceless.
Attracting New Team Members
I love the challenge of finding good people who just want a chance, then giving it to them and watching them grow. It’s an awesome feeling, for both me and them. I’m always looking for employees outside of our industry. Whenever I come across someone from a different field who I think would do a great job at my company, I always ask the question, “Have you ever thought about working in the collision repair industry?” I’ve had great luck finding good people and then training them to do things our way. I can’t teach someone a good attitude, to smile, be positive and a team player, but I can teach them how to write an estimate, repair or refinish a vehicle, or detail a car. These are teachable traits. When you come to me with the first part, teaching you the second part is easy and usually great for both of us. My team has been built that way for the last 20 years, and this approach hasn’t let me down yet.
Continued Growth of OEM Certifications
This is a trend I feel is just going to keep growing. With all the technology in new vehicles, I feel it’s important to work closely with the OEMs and get their certifications so you’ll have the correct information and technology to properly repair them. I know there is a cost involved in becoming certified, but I think it’s an investment that, in the long run, will be beneficial for the future.
New Shop Technology
Shop equipment has evolved dramatically and gotten a lot smarter along the way. I remember when, to make a phone call, you used to put your finger into a rotary dial and turn it. Now I can just tell my smart phone to call a number. It’s crazy how things have changed. We now have spot welders that can reproduce factory welds, scanners that can calibrate sensors and mirrors, etc. I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s next. Yes, there is always a learning curve and we may have to invest in some new equipment, but it usually makes us more efficient and the repair easier or both.
I certainly wouldn’t take my forecasting skills to the casino, but I feel if you do your research and get input from a range of intelligent sources, you can identify the trends you’re likely to see in your business in the year ahead.