Lyft Repair’s Industry Effect
By the end of the year, Lyft, the transportation network company based out of San Francisco, has a goal to launch and run a total of 36 repair shops—or Vehicle Service Centers—throughout the U.S.
According to the Lyft representative that spoke with Ratchet+Wrench, there are currently two test service centers—one in San Francisco, and another in Philadelphia. The service centers will offer general maintenance and car washes. Lyft also mentioned the goal of having a majority of the centers additionally offer collision repair.
Lyft’s objective is to cut expenses for their drivers, as well as make their time-use more efficient. According to Lyft, their service center repairs will cost drivers 50 percent less and take 50 percent of the time to complete.
But, how will these new Lyft repair shops affect the world of independent auto repair shops? According to Andy Fiffick, member of the ASA Mechanical Operations Committee and president of Rad Air Complete Car Care, an 11 store operation in Northeast, Ohio, not by much.
Below, Lyft shares more of their plan, and Fiffick explains his concerns on how Lyft will accomplish their goal as well as what the news could mean for the automotive aftermarket repair sector.
The Tech Shortage Effect
On top of the two current test centers, Lyft plans on opening up 34 more locations throughout the country—quickly, Lyft told Ratchet+Wrench. But Fiffick has concerns when it comes to their accelerated growth.
“Where are they going to get qualified people to open all these shops,” says Fiffick. “There are no extra people in the pipeline right now to run those facilities. Our whole industry is struggling right now, tooth and nail, not only to keep the employees we got and to educate the employees we got, but then to find the next generation of employees we need to educate and keep.”
The technician shortage will come into effect when Lyft begins hiring technicians, just like every other shop in the industry, predicts Fiffick. This shortage may be even more difficult to navigate for Lyft.
Most of the guys in the industry are getting paid very well, and wages are increasing rapidly explains Fiffick, with the discounted prices lyft is planning to offer their drivers, he predicts technician wages will most likely be lower than traditional indy shops, and won't be able to hire the best of the best at discounted wages.
“The industry has already sucked up all the good guys,” says Fiffick.
He predicts a lot of the employees will have to be entry level, or have a lack of knowledge of the industry, because of the shortage effect.
“If they get a workforce that are trying to do the menial things, you are doing a disservice to the client and the vehicle,” he says.
Lyft’s representative says that the goal of these service centers will be to offer services at cost, with discounts up to 50 percent on maintenance, repairs, car washes and more. They also plan to complete the maintenance and repair services in 50 percent of the time.
Lyft says the fast time is due to the exclusivity of the centers solely servicing Lyft drivers—as well as the centers’ setup. Their goal is to design the centers with smaller repairs entering the building through a separate entryway than larger repairs, to maximize flow, says the representative.
Fiffick sees the “assembly line” fashion Lyft plans to do their repairs and maintenance in, as difficult to successfully sustain in this day and age of advanced technologies and ADAS features in cars today.
“Basic needs of their drivers would be tires, alignments and brakes,” explains Fiffick, “some of the cars [these days], you have to have computers to even change the brake pads. For them to set up an assembly line to do this, is not in line with what’s going on in the industry, of things getting more technical, not simpler.”
The Industry Aftermath
In 2017, Lyft had 1.4 million drivers on the road. The transportation network company says that their service centers will be placed where drivers frequently pick up passengers—mobile service opportunities are also on the horizon. Currently, Lyft service centers are viable to any Lyft driver—there are no restrictions on how many miles are driven or number passengers picked up.
“I don’t know how much it will really impact the industry, it’s very difficult to say,” says Fiffick.
With the number of lyft drivers compared to the number of vehicles on the road, he thinks there really won’t be much of an impact on indy shops. Although, he sees a possible effect on quick lube locations, and those of the like.
“This may hurt the lube stops, the fast oil change places, the discount tire places a little bit more,” says Fiffick. “I think, long term, it really won't affect the establishments all the at much [. . .] unless they pull it off and do extremely well with a very talented group of people.”