Steve Leal

Five Trends Affecting the Automotive Aftermarket Industry

The past two years tested the aftermarket industry beyond measure. Where do we go from here? Steve Leal, President and CEO of Fix Network World, looks back on 2021 and offers his perspective for the upcoming year.

I would’ve loved to start this article by offering an “end of the year” perspective on the state of the aftermarket industry. Except that 2021 (and the year before that) has been anything but normal. Years from now, history books and research articles will point out to this pivotal time in mankind’s history as the “lost years” when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world on its knees.

Despite the challenges, there were many wins and opportunities in the past two years. For one, we were able to effectively respond to the pandemic and implement strict safety protocols following local public health guidelines. We closely monitored the health regulations in all our markets and alerted franchisees to issues that may have a possible impact on their businesses. The result of these initiatives gained recognition internationally with three top industry awards for COVID-19 response management communications.

Here are five themes for reflection as we get ready for 2022:

Finding Opportunities

Looking back, 2020 offered tremendous learning and transition, while 2021 saw us collaborating closely to build a more robust process to protect our franchisees from the economic uncertainty of the pandemic. During this critical time when the aftermarket business was deemed as an essential service, we learned to be more agile, think smartly and innovate quickly, to ensure that our franchise partners and customers are never impacted negatively.

Critical Training

During this important time, our franchisees have invested their time and effort to work with us to acquaint themselves with the new and modern techniques in collision repair, glass repair and replacement, mechanical issues and customer service. Our training centres witnessed a higher demand for training from our franchise partners to teach their technicians how to repair the most modern vehicles. Through a mix of virtual and in-person training, we have successfully ensured that our technicians are on top of their game.

Advancement in Technologies

In the aftermarket business, we adapted quickly as newer technologies such as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and electric vehicles became more popular with consumers around the world. We also have started to see early adoption of artificial intelligence and streamlined processes in some of key aftermarket operations, but these may take some time to yield positive results.

Electric Vehicles

Though electric vehicles may take some time to reach parity with internal combustion engines in terms of sales and adoption, they will continue to present interesting opportunities and questions for the industry. The challenge for the aftermarket industry would be if it is really prepared to repair these sophisticated machines. In case of a collision, electric vehicles demand a completely different approach than just tending to dent repair.

Attracting Talent

One of the challenges facing the global aftermarket industry – and it will continue to remain a challenge, regardless of the pandemic – is the shortage of talented people to take the industry forward. Many younger people are not convinced about a rewarding future in the body shop business. We all know that this is not true; the aftermarket industry can offer many diverse opportunities for individuals whether it’s at the back of the body shop or in the front.

As the world slowly returns to normal and more vehicles return to the roads, I am confident that we will adopt the lessons from the “lost years” and continue to create value for our customers and franchisees. Let’s keep doing what we are best at!