There are many keys to success in business, and I firmly believe that two that go together are identifying trends and preparing yourself to take full advantage of those trends wherever possible.
One automotive trend that is unlikely to go away is the development of “alternative” fuel vehicles, which is coming to mean anything that isn’t good old 87-, 89- and 91-octane gasoline in the tank. Production hybrid-electric vehicles have been around for several years, and have gained much momentum of late. Additionally, diesel and bio-diesels are gaining press, as well as flex-fuels that add ethanol. That’s not even taking into account plug-in electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that seem to be on the horizon.
Recently, at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit, I was walking the exhibit hall and felt I had been physically struck as I noticed the sheer preponderance of booths that touted some kind of alternative fuel wares. Additionally, a recent issue of an “Automotive Digest” e-newsletter was dominated by headlines like “Consumers Want Their Hybrid and Performance, Too;” “Study Reignites Debate over Impact of Increased Ethanol Use;” “New Diesels Headed for U.S. Market” and “GM Unveils Fuel Cell for Concept Volt.”
Automobiles seem to be changing at a rate not seen since perhaps the early years of the industry.
There’s the trend. So how will you adapt to succeed?
The most important is education. Whether through the ASA, ASE or other associations (don’t forget your local vo-tech), keeping abreast of what they’re teaching new techs can be important in educating yourself. This education isn’t necessarily to learn a new skill set — consider the opportunities it gives you to upsell the other maintenance on a car that isn’t affected by the technology. Oil changes, tire service and more will remain mostly unchanged.
And consider this: If it’s likely that many two-car families will see some sort of hybrid or flex-fuel vehicle hit the driveway for commuting, and you can’t service that car, how likely is it the “regular” car might start going where the hybrid does for maintenance?
Change is inevitable; profit is not.
Speaking of success, PTEN has a new column specifically targeting your business’ well-being. “Maintaining your business” will cover tips on keeping your front office healthy, whether it be tax tips, retaining top techs, upselling advice, marketing ideas and more. You can find the first edition of the column on page 8. PTEN is looking for more shop owners to share their stories of success and increased profitability with our readers. Send your submissions to me at email@example.com.
Some automakers void warranties that use biofuels.
What your technicians need to know about electronic controls on clean diesels and flex-fuel vehicles.
One or two more reasons why I love my flex-fuel Taurus.
Back in the mid ’80s, cars started showing up at repair shops with engine systems that were computer controlled and the technician couldn’t even adjust an idle.