An updated survey from IMR Inc. shows how COVID-19 has upended the expectations and priorities of independent automotive repair shops and their technicians. The survey also shows the vast majority of providers — 84% — reported a decrease in revenue.

Between May 4-29, 2020, IMR surveyed 500 independent automotive repair facilities. In addition to the drop in revenue, 54.6% reported they had reduced staff and 86.8% lowered pay.

Here’s a closer look at some of those figures:

Rural shops were more likely to reduce staff (57.9%) compared to 53.7% of suburban and 49.5% of urban shops.

Eighty percent of stores with eight or more bays reduced staff. Smaller stores fared better – 52.8% of stores with four to seven bays had staff cuts, while 46.2% of one to three bay stores had staff reductions.

As for reducing hours and pay, it was much more common across all geographies in the industry:

  • 92.6% of suburban stores reduced hours/pay
  • 86% of urban stores reduced hours/pay
  • 84.2% of rural stores reduced hours/pay

The survey also provides a fresh look at what independent repair facilities consider their top challenges for the remainder of 2020.

  • Keeping staff and customers safe and social distancing 55%
  • Getting customers, keeping the shop running and returning to normal hours 44%
  • Getting parts on time 34%
  • Getting parts and finding suppliers with parts in stock 29.2%
  • Making payroll and keeping techs working 29%
  • Recovering financially from COVID-19 21%
  • Rising costs of parts and keeping prices affordable for customers 15.2%
  • Find a way to compete with larger chains and dealerships 9.8%

IMR also provides a breakdown of these responses by the size of business, and urban, suburban or rural locations.

As a point of comparison, in February IMR released a survey showing what independent automotive repair providers expected to be their biggest challenges for 2020. At the top of that list: finding time for hands on training.
For technicians at independent repair facilities, 45.8% said their greatest challenge will be to keep working enough to support their families. This was followed by 37.2% of technicians who said they’re concerned with keeping themselves safe at work due to COVID-19.
In the January survey, 42.6% of technicians said their primary concern was finding time for training. In the age of COVID-19, training has dropped to a priority for 16.6% of technicians.

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