Although the number of light vehicles has grown 22 percent in the past 10 years, there were 44,000 fewer service bays to repair them, according to a new study.
According to Lang Marketing Resources Inc.'s Aftermarket Annual 2006/2007 report, the U.S. light vehicle population has grown by more than 39 million vehicles since 1996. The independent market intelligence company's weekly electronic marketletter, Aftermarket Insight, reported that despite the increased number of vehicles on U.S. roadways, the car and light truck service bay count plummeted, ``creating a service bay crisis.''
In 1996, there were fewer than 155 light vehicles in the U.S. per service bay, and nearly one out of 20 of those service bays closed yearly since then, the Aftermarket Insight report said.
According to the report, there were 166 light vehicles in the U.S. per service bay in 2000, and by 2003 that number had grown to 180. As of August 2006, there were more than 190 light vehicles for every service bay, and that number is projected to reach 200 by 2008, depeening the service bay crisis in the vehicle repair market, said Lang Marketing President Jim Lang.
The ongoing decline of service bays is mostly due to a shift in the competitive marketplace, Mr. Lang said. Both specialized and foreign specialized shops have replaced generic repair shops, he said. Another reason for the decline, he said, is due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations, which caused a number of smaller service stations to close because of leakage of underground storage units.
``The growing service bay crisis has significant consequences for vehicle fuel efficiency, highlighted by skyrocketing gas prices, as well as vehicle safety,'' he said.
Mr. Lang suggested improved service bay productivity is needed along with better mechanic training, enhanced tools and equipment, and sophisticated diagnostic techniques and shop management software in order to lessen the service bay crisis, something he said a number of companies have began to incorporate.
``How the aftermarket responds to the growing service bay crisis will play a critical role in determining the future of the light vehicle service market in the U.S.,'' he said.
He described the repair industry as one of opportunity because there is ``a reservoir of unperformed maintenance and certainly an opportunity for people to provide repair.''
Mr. Lang said the decrease of generic service bays underscores the need to make service as convenient as possible for customers, such as having friendly employees, a clean show room and longer store hours.
Lang Marketing has released Aftermarket Annual reports since 2000, and they have about a 95 percent accuracy rate, Mr. Lang said. The issue surrounding service bay shortages is part of an ongoing series of studies that have been presented by Lang Marketing.