Current market conditions in the heavy-duty collision repair industry are not unprecedented, though the causes behind them most certainly are.
“Because of COVID-19, the social unrest the country is experiencing and it being an election year — with those three things we can safely assume this is going to be a period of significant challenge and uncertainty for at least the remainder of this year,” said John Webb, vice president, TenPoint Complete, a market research firm serving the automotive and trucking industry.
Webb addressed the business climate as well as a portion of the HD Repair Forum‘s inaugural study of the heavy-duty collision repair industry during a webinar held Thursday.
Since 2000, heavy-duty aftermarket annual product sales have fallen twice, in 2008 and 2009. Though the sale of heavy-duty trucks decreased by more than 40 percent from 2007 to 2009, annual parts volume fell less than 2 percent during the same period, Webb said, pointing to the trend that in a poor economy repairing a truck trumps replacing one.
In the survey commissioned by the HD Repair Forum, between 70 and 90 percent of the 200 respondents reported repairing vehicles in Classes 4-8, depending on the class. On the other end of the spectrum, a little more than 40 percent reported repairing cars and light trucks and roughly 60 percent of respondents said they repair RVs.
Similarly, when asked about services provided in addition to collision repair, more than 70 percent responded “mechanical services and maintenance,” while less than 30 percent reported “trailer repair.”
Another survey question addressed where shops get their business. More than 90 percent reported fleets, but less than 40 percent reported getting business from municipalities.
Types of vehicles, services provided and work source channels are all business factors to consider in good and bad times, Webb said.
“The question would be what is this the best fit for your business? Is there an opportunity to expand or contract [to focus on core competencies] based on certain business conditions,” Webb said. “We can see from the responses we got, there’s probably significant opportunity in what I would call a general mechanical space.”
The HD Repair Forum also addressed employee benefits. An overwhelming percentage of respondents said they offer health insurance and 401k programs to their employees.
“When you look at the difficulty in hiring and retaining quality employees, which impacts everyone but especially [this] industry, what do you need to be competitive and how do you compare with your peers in that particular area,” Webb said.