As social distancing becomes part of normal life, the mobile automotive repair industry is hoping it can turn a niche industry into something much larger.
"All the virus did was jump-start mobile to grow faster," Todd Ford, owner of mobile vehicle builder Custom Upfits, said. "Who's going to want to deal with going out and being exposed (to COVID-19) when they can just stay home?"
Mr. Ford also owns Premier Mobile Tire, a Sacramento, Calif.-based mobile tire-servicing business offering coverage in Northern California, Denver and Las Vegas.
Joel Milne, CEO of Los Angeles-based mobile repair fleet RepairSmith Inc., said the pandemic hasn't effected the business, one way or another. The company offers tire installation, oil changes and brake repair as well as a number of engine repairs, such as replacing fuel pumps, alternators, starters and batteries.
"We were growing as fast as we could before the pandemic, and that has not changed," Mr. Milne said. He added that the company did not have to lay off or furlough any of its 100 employees during the pandemic. Mr. Milne said the company is actively hiring in every market the company services.
He said the transition to "contact-free" service was easy because of the way the service was designed.
"RepairSmith was built as low contact and convenient — basically, how do we build this so (the customer) doesn't have to do anything?" Mr. Milne said. "Since that was our focus from the beginning, it was a very easy transition to contact-free."
RepairSmith, which started service in August 2019, operates mobile service vehicles in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, San Jose and Sacramento, Calif.; Las Vegas; and, as of April, Phoenix.
In June, the company acquired More Automotive Group, a provider of mobile repair and maintenance services for fleets, property managers and corporate office parks in the Sacramento, Calif., and San Francisco Bay area.
Mr. Milne said the company will continue to expand — both to strengthen its current footprint and reach new areas.
At St. Louis-based Hunter Engineering Co., John Zentz, senior vice president of global sales, said his company has seen a growth in mobile repair services.
"We're certainly seeing it in multiple facets — mostly, organized from larger companies, like Tesla and Tire Rack," Mr. Zentz said.
"We're seeing this as an extension from our customers' businesses to provide better service. Larger tire dealers are trying to find more ways to help people buy tires."