WYCKOFF, N.J.-Despite a precipitous decline in the number of service bays nationwide over the past decade, tire dealerships are holding their own and actually have grown in bay numbers. This service ``crisis'' is a cause for concern that will be magnified as the number of vehicles on the road continues to increase, predicted one industry analyst. But it also could provide significant service opportunities.
``There are over 150 cars and light trucks in the U.S. for every service bay, compared to 120 light vehicles for each bay 10 years ago,'' reports James A. Lang, president of Lang Marketing Resources Inc.
The Wyckoff-based research and consulting firm specializes in the vehicle products industry.
In a recent analysis of the 1995 aftermarket published in the monthly Lang Report, Mr. Lang said that over the last 10 years the number of service bays for light vehicle repair dropped by more than 98,000. That translates to 1.2 million bays at service outlets currently repairing cars and light trucks, compared to 1.3 million bays a decade ago.
``While the number of service bays has declined,'' Mr. Lang said, ``the number of light vehicles on U.S. roads has steadily increased, jumping from 157 million cars and light trucks in 1985 to more than 183 million light vehicles in operation on U.S. roads today.''
Service stations and garages still account for the largest number of service bays today, but also have suffered the greatest decline in bay population, at 476,000, down 114,000 over the past 10 years.
Car and light truck dealerships have the second-largest share of bays serving cars and light trucks-approximately 293,000, according to the report. But the bay count for car dealers has declined by more than 42,000 between 1984 and 1994.
The situation is much different with specialty repair shops.
``They operate substantially more service bays than 10 years ago, up more than 31,000 in bay population,'' Mr. Lang said. ``The same is true of tire stores, which account for 16,000 more service bays than 10 years ago.''
Tire stores, according to the report, account for 9 percent or 110,000 of the service bays handling cars and light trucks nationwide.
Specialty repair shops-which include exhaust, quick-lube, muffler, front-end work, as well as foreign vehicle repairs-rank third in service bay share with 17 percent, or 208,000 bays.
He cautioned that by the year 2000, ``there could be as many as 170 cars and light trucks for each service bay in the U.S.''
Mr. Lang said that while the service bay ``crisis'' is a cause for concern, the ``reduced number of bays relative to the vehicle population points to opportunities for niche marketing new types of service shops as exemplified by the rapid growth of `quick lube' operations over the past 10 years.''
The increasing vehicle population with corresponding decline in service bays underscores the importance of ``mechanics with the finest tools and equipment,'' Mr. Lang said, ``and maximizing the repair capability and capacity'' of the nation's service bays.