Service & repair demand to fall 25% by 2015

The number of garages operating in the UK has plummeted by a third in the last 10 years, and the trend is set to continue. That’s according to the latest findings from industry monitor Trend Tracker.

Confirming the suspicions of many in the aftermarket, the report, based on a survey of 17,000 British motorists, charts the falling demand for  car servicing and repair.

The decline appears to be driven by a number of factors, including motorists using their cars less – according to the National Travel Survey, annual mileage fell by 9 percent between 1998 and 2008 – extended service intervals and more reliable vehicles.

Indeed, the report points out that improvements in vehicle build quality are eroding service and repair demand by 3-4 percent every year.

The crisis in the new car market also has a part to play, according to Trend Tracker. The number of cars in use shrank by  almost 1 percent in 2008/09 – the first time the UK car parc fell since the second world war.

All of which has resulted in reduced work for garages. In 1999, there were, on average, 2.04 service and repair transactions per motorist but by 2009, this figure stood at 1.5.

However, the report does have some nuggets that should inspire optimism: while demand for repair work is down, the value of the work has risen. At current prices, the value of the market is up 2 percent on 1999, driven primarily by an increase in labour charges.

And the report also highlights the competitiveness of independent workshops compared to their franchised counterparts. While main dealers have ramped up their prices by 36 percent above inflation since 1999, independents have raised theirs by just 15 percent above the Retail Prices Index.

Furthermore, more motorists appear to be switching their allegiance from their franchised dealer workshop. In 2009, 27.8 percent of motorists used their main dealer for repair work, down from 28.4 percent in 2008. And it seems that, despite their best efforts, the main dealers are not yet making inroads into the four-years plus car market.

Trend Tracker director and analyst Chris Oakham said: “These declining trends in service and repair demand will squeeze providers to the point where we forecast there will be 44 percent fewer service/ repair outlets by 2015 than there were in 1999.”

This post was written by:

- who has written 256 posts on CAT Magazine.

Emma has been CAT's editor since January 2008. There isn't much she doesn't know about the aftermarket - and her favourite topic is definitely BER!

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