How Shops Impact Car-Buying Decisions
During the organization’s annual ToolTech conference, former Equipment and Tool Institute (ETI) COO Charlie Gorman presented the findings of a market research study and survey that examined the impact of aftermarket service facilities on new car–buying preferences of consumers. The survey was conducted in an effort to assist members in bringing new and improved equipment and tools to the marketplace and quantify the impact aftermarket service facilities have on the new car–buying preferences of consumers. To ETI’s knowledge, no one has ever attempted to capture statistical data on this subject.
Gorman says the effect is significant and the study provides real numbers to show the importance of the relationship. He recently discussed the survey results, the importance of the relationship between OEMs and repair shops, and what shops need to know about it.
WHY DID ETI FEEL IT WAS IMPORTANT TO CONDUCT THIS SURVEY?
Obviously, there is a lot of incentive for OEMs to provide information to the aftermarket. This is especially true for tool companies because the scan tool information that we get from the OEMs is unique. It’s not used by technicians directly; it’s internal information that describes the communication between the tool and the vehicle. To build that equipment, it’s critical to have that necessary information. A lot of OEMs question why they have to do this and why it’s important. They do understand why it’s important to our survival, but they don’t understand what they get out of it. It makes them somewhat reluctant to participate.
We’ve never been able to answer that question directly with statistics. This survey is an attempt to do that. We’ve always believed that a well-informed aftermarket sells vehicles and brands. The companies that support the aftermarket better than others are going to get more recommendations from those technicians. We’ve always used anecdotal examples for the OEMs but never any broad statistical data.
HOW DID ETI ADMINISTER THE SURVEY?
We came up with two surveys—one for shops and one for consumers to try to determine whether or not they ask for recommendations, if the shops respond, and how the consumers act on those. We asked shop owners and technicians which vehicle brands are difficult to repair in the aftermarket. We asked them if they receive consumer requests regarding which brand of car to buy and we asked if their answer is based on repair difficulty. Finally, we asked what factors make a particular brand easier or more difficult to repair.
Consumers were asked where they get their cars repaired. If the answer was an independent shop, we asked them if they ever ask for a recommendation regarding what brand to buy the next time they are ready to purchase a vehicle. If the answer was yes, we asked whether or not the recommendation influenced their decision.
WHAT WERE THE TAKEAWAYS?
We didn’t know what the results were going to be. This was kind of a shot in the dark and could have been a bust. It really didn’t turn out that way at all. It was very positive. Shops reported that 34.3 percent of their customers ask them for vehicle purchase recommendations and 40.7 percent of those customers actually purchase what was recommended. That means roughly 12 percent of consumers purchase their next car based on a recommendation made by someone at their independent shop.
I was surprised that, especially under $50,000 incomes, they rely on those recommendations heavily. I think it’s because those with incomes under $50,000 don’t have the luxury of going to a dealership due to the expense. They rely heavily on the recommendations of the aftermarket shops’ technicians and shop owners on what they should purchase next because those repair expenses are a major item for them.
Whereas on the other end of the scale, when you’ve got people making over $100,000, only 5 percent look for recommendations. First of all, they’re more likely not to care if cars are difficult. Secondly, those brands are more tied to the dealer because of the difficulty to repair. The information isn’t there on those luxury brands as much as they are for more mainstream brands. That’s especially true of the German cars and I think that’s why they got the worst rating, as far as ease of repair and expense of the equipment. Eighty-four percent of shops rated German cars as the most difficult to repair, with British and Swedish cars following with 65 percent.
Overall, shops are most likely to recommend Toyota, Honda, GM or Ford vehicles. The company that does the best job at looking at how the aftermarket can help them is Toyota, and it shows up in our data, too. They actively support the aftermarket and have been able to do so with the dealer blessings. In other words, that’s always the fight. The dealers think that companies shouldn’t support the aftermarket because it’s competition. But Toyota doesn’t look at it that way. They see both as just as important, and brand satisfaction is the ultimate goal that will make everybody successful. I think that’s the message we want to send back to the OEMs: This really is worth their while. If you fight the aftermarket on a daily basis, you may want to revisit that because it may be doing more harm than good, even for your dealers.
WHY SHOULD SHOP OWNERS CARE ABOUT THE RESULTS OF THIS SURVEY?
From ETI’s standpoint, obviously in a general sense, having general information on how to repair vehicles from third parties is a lot less expensive than getting it directly from the OEMs. That’s why they recommend certain brands that support the aftermarket because that’s their primary source of information and tools.
It is my hope that the automakers that are lower down the list will see the value. It could help them gain approval from a very influential source of word-of-mouth advertising. In a larger sense, this study and the results will help in conversation with those companies and, in turn, with getting shops the information they need. That’s the ultimate goal. This really is a win-win.