At the end of any year, it’s always good to take a look back at what happened both for interest and as a way of moving forward and planning for the future. For a website like the Automotive Management Network, our happenings were based primarily on what our members were talking about in the automotive repair industry. We reviewed our archives and have made a list here of the Top 5 topics that generated conversations in 2018. Here they are.
The Shortage of Auto Techs
This topic is perennial, of course. We still have a desperate shortage of good auto mechanics in the industry. This affects both owners and workers in the field, and everyone has their own opinions about what must be done to solve the problem. Owners have a tendency to blame the work ethic and habits of the labor pool while techs tend to blame the…
There’s no getting around the fact that, for American workers in general, wages have stagnated. The trend in the American economy is for declining wages with few benefits given. In the skilled trades where there is demand for labor, such as auto repair, wages are better. However, most techs argue that pay rates are still too low given their ongoing certification requirements and the fact that they have to pay for their own equipment. They believe that if they were paid what they are worth, the labor shortage would disappear.
Auto Shop Management Software
Finding the best auto shop management software is always a concern of our readers. This is why we created and update regularly our spreadsheet comparing the capabilities of the management software currently on the market. We recommend that our members make a list of their requirements, use the spreadsheet to determine which software packages best meet those requirements, and, if they need more advice, to ask other auto shop owners for their experiences with software (on our forums). You are often each other’s best resource for specific advice.
Marijuana and Other Drugs
We wrote several pieces this year discussing the challenges that drugs, including marijuana, which is legal in an ever increasing number of states, affects the auto shop as a workplace. Opioid use is a real concern especially in auto shops in rural areas. Shop owners remain divided about whether they want to employ workers who use recreational drugs. Legalizing marijuana creates increased liability for all businesses. Quite a number of techs weighed in defending marijuana use and saying that what they did on their own time was no business of their bosses at all – or ours!
Amazon as Competition
Finally, a there was growing concern about Amazon undercutting the profitability of auto shops by entering the auto parts market. As one of our members, Michael Gibbons, stated: “Our profit centers are parts, labor, and shop supplies….no matter how you cut it up. There has to be a healthy balance. Lose one, and the others have to make it up…somehow, some way. If your parts margins heavily decrease, then your labor margins need to heavily increase.”
In response to Amazon’s cutthroat offensive, many shops are making it their policy not to let customers supply their own parts, period. Part of this is profitability, and the other part is liability. Most shops do not want and cannot afford to be held liable for problems that result from using lesser quality parts in repair work.
There you go! Those are our Top 5 topics of 2018. Do you have anything to add to our list? Does anything else stick out in your memory? As we move into 2019, we expect that these topics will continue to generate conversations as none of are likely to be resolved soon. No doubt we will see new challenges for the field emerge as well. Hopefully some of these problems will be resolved in time and with cooperation. On that note, we at the Automotive Management Network wish you and your auto shop a very Happy New Year and all of the best in 2019!