The population of vehicles on U.S. roadways is increasing while the number of vehicle service bays is dropping, according to Lang Marketing Resources Inc.'s Aftermarket Insight report.
The research firm estimates the divergence has resulted in 30 percent more cars and light trucks for each service bay in the U.S., compared with 10 years ago.
Over the next year or two, the number of vehicles per bay will soar, triggered by thousands of dealers closing across the country, said President Jim Lang. All this is making vehicle repair less convenient (more vehicles and fewer bays) and has implications for the operating efficiency and safety of vehicles in the U.S. On a positive note, this presents opportunities for companies which can make technicians and bays more productive.
Lang Marketing estimated the number of cars and light trucks on U.S. roads grew nearly 25 percent between 1998 and 2008, while the number of service bays shrunk by 45,000, or 4 percent, during the same period.
In 1998, there were fewer than 160 cars and light trucks for each service bay; by mid-2008, there were more than 200 vehicles per bay, according to the company.
With the anticipated closing of more than 2,000 car dealerships during 2009, that ratio will continue to increase, leading to a near-crisis level, due to the growing sophistication of vehicles in operation and the rapidly increasing age of vehicles in use.
The steady growth of vehicles per service bay is making vehicle maintenance less convenient for many Americans and has potential consequences for vehicle operating efficiency (vehicle mpg and emission levels) as well as vehicle safety, the report said.
However, the company said the situation also provides opportunities for equipment suppliers, software developers, technical trainers, and others to increase efficiency and productivity of technicians in the surviving bays.