Study: Independent Automotive Service Shops Need Access to Extensive Auto Parts Inventory

Across the spectrum of autonomous vehicles, vehicles designated for ride sharing and car sharing, and vehicles for personal and business use, one of the most common ownership responsibilities is vehicle maintenance and repair. Most vehicle owners do not look forward to these services, viewing them as an inconvenience or lost time. Any delay at the shop while a vehicle is getting serviced only adds to the inconvenience or lost revenue if the vehicle is used for business purposes. For the shop owner having a vehicle tying up a bay waiting for auto parts has an opportunity cost associated with it – they could be servicing another vehicle.
The availability of automotive parts has the potential to greatly impact the time required to service a vehicle. Availability challenges range from parts being out of stock in a local market to items that are simply no longer being manufactured. Depending on the vehicle make or age of the vehicle, vehicle owners may prefer the comfort of utilizing Genuine OEM parts (original equipment manufacturer), OEM quality parts or aftermarket parts. Generally independent service providers source OEM parts via local car dealerships. If the local dealership does not inventory the part, the part must come from another dealer or the OEM parts distribution center. Service providers servicing older vehicles are sometimes faced with a similar challenge where a particular part required to complete the service is no longer manufactured and difficult to acquire from local suppliers.
Vehicle Owners Usually Give Auto Repair Shops Plenty of Lead Time for Service
In order to better understand the challenges faced by automotive repair shops – as well as their major opportunities for improvement – Openbay surveyed more than 180 independent shops. Openbay also analyzed data from its own online marketplace for auto repair and service.
The Openbay survey asked independent automotive service providers how far in advance their customers normally book appointments. According to the survey results, approximately 50 percent of customers book service more than two days in advance. About 26 percent of them request next-day service, while 24 percent request same-day service.
In practice, this means that many automotive service providers have plenty of advanced notice when it comes to researching and ordering parts. In some cases, they simply aren’t getting these parts in time for a quick completion of the required service.
Independent Automotive Service Providers - How Many Days in Advance are Customer Appointments Booked
Openbay also compared this survey data from independent service providers with data from its very own marketplace. Openbay analyzed the last 500 completed services on its marketplace and found that 72 percent of its customers book service more than two days in advance. Around 18 percent of them request next-day service, while only 10 percent request same-day service.   
independent automotive service providers - how many days in advance are customer appointments booked - Openbay vs Automotive Service providers
Automotive Parts Supply Channels for the Independent Shop
 There are several major categories of automotive parts suppliers that independent service providers rely on for their automotive parts needs. The Openbay survey asked what percentage of parts is acquired through each of these channels on a monthly basis.
The survey asked service providers about the six primary channels they buy parts from. National retail distributors and chains such as AutoZone, Advanced Auto Parts, O’Reilly Auto Parts and NAPA deliver the majority of parts and represent 35.2 percent of all parts purchased on a monthly basis. National warehouse and specialty suppliers such as Worldpac, SSF Auto Parts and IMC represent 21.7 percent of all parts purchased on a monthly basis, according to survey data. Local independent or regional distributors represent 19.1 percent  of all parts purchased. Dealerships delivered 16.1 percent  of parts purchased and Internet retailers such as Amazon and RockAuto supplied 6.2 percent of parts. Mass merchants and big box stores such as Walmart (Jet) and Costco, delivered 1.7 percent of parts purchased.
Independent Automotive Service Providers: Percentage of Auto Parts Purchased by Supplier Category
Automotive Service Providers Are Willing to Switch Parts Suppliers
Shrinking margins and ever increasing competition mean that service providers are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency and profitability. According to the survey, automotive service providers are willing to switch parts suppliers when they offer parts at lower costs and with greater efficiency. Such opportunities are more bountiful than ever, thanks to the proliferation of online parts catalogs and e-commerce retailers. Using online catalogs, providers can research the items needed to complete a service, select the source for the part, place an order and have it delivered directly to their business. This can resolve availability and profitability concerns while improving the customer experience.
The Openbay survey found that more than 89 percent of independent automotive service providers are likely to switch automotive parts suppliers when there is an opportunity to improve margins and drive efficiency. That percentage increases to more than 93 percent for service providers that earn more than one million dollars in annual service revenue.
The Right Supplier Can Drive Efficiency and Increase Customer Satisfaction
Openbay’s survey and marketplace data show that the majority of customers book service well before the actual service date. For appointments booked more than two days in advance, vehicle service providers have the opportunity to prepare for service. In knowing the service details for each vehicle — as well as the make, model, trim, engine and vehicle identification number (VIN) — each shop can research the part(s) required for the service.
Service providers can then select a source that best meets their needs in terms of price, availability and delivery. Those parts arrive prior to a vehicle’s service date, thus avoiding any delays caused by unavailable parts. This allows automotive service providers to drastically reduce the time needed to perform the repair or service.
The end result is increased efficiency for any service provider, along with competitive pricing for most parts. Those shorter wait times can increase levels of customer satisfaction while reducing levels of customer frustration.
As vehicle complexity continues to increase and customer expectations for repair rise accordingly, providing a great customer experience will greatly depend on having the right parts available at the right time.

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