The results of the latest Impression Communications Garage Survey paint an interesting picture of the independent aftermarket at a time when it is recovering from a challenging 2020.
The survey, carried out by the aftermarket-dedicated PR specialists across its database of 15,000 garages, found that 74% of respondents saw their business decrease in April 2021. This coincides with the MOT extension from last year, highlighting the impact that a lack of testing will have on workshops in the months, and possibly years to come.
The survey also revealed that 48% of garages had accessed the job retention scheme (furlough) in April, and 51% of respondents were unaware of how the government’s super deduction capital allowance could work for their business.
On the subject of the DVSA’s SAFE campaign, encouraging motorists back into workshops running in April and May, the audience was split with 50% of garages unaware of the initiative.
Looking ahead, 51% of garages were “optimistic” about the future and 60% of garages expected staff levels within their garage to stay the same over the next six months.
This is a positive step, and highlights how the aftermarket may be one of the most important parts of the entire automotive industry recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the UK’s car parc getting older, and drivers holding onto their cars for longer, servicing and repair demands will likely increase. Add to this a possible reluctance by many to use public transport, and car usage could increase in the coming years.
“Without question the automotive aftermarket supply chain has performed admirably throughout the pandemic, but the effects of the MOT extension have had widespread and far-reaching consequences,” commented Mark Field, director of Impression Communications. “Positively and with support, independent garages are ready and willing to train and develop their business capabilities in order to embrace future opportunities in vehicle repair & maintenance, digitalisation and effective communication with motorists.”
However, the positivity cannot be shared when it comes to preparing for the future outside of COVID-19. On the subject of apprentices, just 37% of garages said they currently employed one or more. This highlights a potential skills shortage in the industry, especially worrying as cars become more complex and a younger generation is needed to come into the repair sector to help it continue to offer the best knowledge and service available.
Even more concerning is the number of garages that are not trained on the repair and maintenance of electric vehicles (EVs). Just 25% of respondents to the Impression Communications survey said they had the knowledge to work on the technology. However, 53% said they were open to training on EV repair. The remaining 22% said they had no interest in training.
With electric technology expected to increase rapidly in the coming years as carmakers launch new models and consumer confidence in the market improves, EV training is going to be vital. The survey backs up findings by the IMI that there is a worrying chasm between EV sales and automotive-industry knowledge.