Specialisation in the automotive aftermarket

Two mechanics looking an information in a paper sheet in a workshop

Taking on all makes and models of vehicles worked very successfully for years, but are its days numbered?

Most of the aftermarket auto workshops that have been around for some time are marketed on the ‘all makes and models’ structure. However, the aftermarket industry is facing dramatic change at an accelerating rate, with the current focus on the transition to electric vehicles. That is not where it starts or ends. The general technology shift started many years ago, picked up speed in recent years and is now changing so quickly that just keeping up is a challenge for most workshops.

New skill sets are needed to perform a wide variety of services on vehicles, opening the way to a range of opportunities for specialisation for automotive workshops and technicians. What’s more, advancements in automotive technology are creating many new niches for specialisation in such areas as electric and hybrid vehicles, driver-assistance systems, advanced electronics, programming and many more.

The ‘all makes and models’ workshop may survive for a time, but they will come to rely on specialised subcontractors to fulfil the service and diagnostic requirements of customer vehicles.

Workshops with particular skills may choose to specialise in one make or model, or even in one particular area of a vehicle. This could lead to developing a sub-business within the workshop to provide a specialised service to private or trade customers, thereby supplementing the general workshop profitability.

Planning the future of your workshop in this environment can be a little overwhelming, so the following options might help. Specialisation can deliver quite a few short- and long-term benefits as well as new opportunities.

If you adopt a specialised field such as vehicle emissions or diagnostic technology, the path is wide open to gain new customers in both retail and trade. With vehicles becoming more complex, specialising in a specific technology or automotive component could lead to opportunities to work on newer vehicles.

Workshops with the skills and training to conduct complex repairs will be able to charge more for their services. Specialisation usually leads to a smaller pool of qualified professionals being available — the law of supply and demand then has its influence on pricing.

Any decision to specialise should begin with some consideration of the workshop's overall business interests and strengths. Consider the demographics of the workshop’s location. Societies change, often with positive impact on financial status. Look at the types of vehicles in your area — maybe European vehicles are more common than they were before.

One of the main advantages of specialisation is that the business benefits from the resources and time required to specialise. Training can be more focused on a particular vehicle or component type. The workshop no longer struggles to stay on top of the changing technologies across dozens of vehicle makes — now almost impossible.

This leads to cost savings in tooling and equipment specialisation. The ‘all makes and models’ workshop has to invest in a wide range of scan tools and diagnostic equipment as well as upgrading and supporting tools. A specialised workshop may even get away with just one factory scan tool or, at most, those tools specific to the brand.

Specialisation options are limitless within the automotive aftermarket industry, pointing to a positive future for those prepared to spend the time exploring the possibilities that will be just right for your workshop.

This article was published 27/06/2023 and the content is current as at the date of publication.