According to the study, 26% of respondents take their vehicles to a car dealership; 23% never go to a car dealership; and 53% go to both. So three-fourths of respondents visit an independent repair shop; the bad news is that same percentage also visits car dealerships, Nadeau said.
When it comes to consumer perceptions of independent shops versus car dealerships, “by far independent service shops are seen as outperforming dealerships in terms of value for the money,” Nadeau said. They are also seen as being more trustworthy.
Car dealerships, however, are perceived to have better technical competence, cleaner shops, longer length of warranty, better quality of parts and proactive in notifying consumers about the need for maintenance.
Nadeau said there is a need for some myth busting.
“We know many vehicle owners are going to their dealerships exclusively, if not in part, because of the (OEM) warranty. The warranty is a significant driver that gets people going to their dealerships,” he said.
About 31% of respondents believe if their car is under an OEM warranty, it will be nullified if the vehicle is serviced at a shop other than the OEM dealership.
To counteract this perception, AIA said it offers independent shops a downloadable sign to publicize that if a vehicle owner follows the maintenance procedures outlined by the manufacturer, the warranty won’t be voided by going to an aftermarket shop.
Channer said the study shows “consumers are continuing to give us the roadmap with respect to where their expectations lie.”
Consumers trust aftermarket shops but they are looking for cleaner facilities, renovated bathrooms and waiting rooms, and communication on the level of training technicians receive.
“We can’t just put the (training) plaques up in our facility. That’s all well and good. But you want them to first come to your facility. They are checking you out online, so you have to ask yourself: ‘What does the content of my website look like? Have I actually updated that content to make myself more visible and relevant for what consumers are looking for?'” Channer said.
“We have to put ourselves out there, to exude this confidence and professionalism that we have in our business, in our people and the investments that we’ve made. It’s clear consumers are asking for us to be more confident in making these recommendations ongoing and to communicate with them on a regular basis.”
Many shops haven’t kept up with technology and the digitalization of communication, he said. Shops can no longer rely on phone calls, they need a digital presence to notify and communicate their value and level of professionalism to vehicle owners.
“That’s what they’re looking for,” Channer said. “They need help in managing the ongoing maintenance of their vehicles and they are asking us for that help.”