Lang Aftermarket iReport: Fewer service bays as repair market surges

“Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) vehicle repair soared by more than $12 billion in products between 2013 and 2018, but instead of sparking service bay growth, the number of light vehicle service bays declined across the U.S.”

“Despite the loss of 8,000 service bays nationwide over this five-year span, four major groups of outlets increased their bay counts, while two groups declined in bay population.”

— Jim Lang, publisher, Lang Aftermarket iReport

Fewer Service Bays

Light vehicle product sales in the U.S. soared by more than $12 billion at user-price between 2013 and 2018, a 14% gain at user-price.

At the same time, service bays repairing cars and light trucks fell from 1.17 million to 1.16 million across the country.

Changing Bay Population

Although there were approximately 8,000 fewer car and light truck service bays during 2018 compared to five years earlier, not all major types of repair outlets suffered bay losses.

Vehicle Dealers, after closing more than 65,000 bays over the previous five years, increased their bay population by more than 11,000 between 2013 and 2018.

Repair Specialists (outlets focused on a limited menu of repair operations) recorded the second largest increase in bays between 2013 and 2018, adding 9,000 bays.

Foreign Specialists recorded the largest percentage gain in bay population, soaring from 81,000 bays in 2013 to approximately 87,000 at mid-year 2018, an increase of nearly 8% over this five-year span.

Tire Stores recorded a modest gain in bays, increasing from 125,000 in 2013 to 126,000 by mid-year 2018.

Outlets Declining in Bay Count

Service Stations & Garages operate the largest number of service bays across the country. However, they declined in total service bay count between 2013 and 2018, falling by more than 16,000.

The residual category of Other outlets (comprised of Auto Parts Stores with bays and Discount Stores/Mass Merchandisers with bays, and miscellaneous operations) recorded the largest decline in service bay count over this five-year span, falling by approximately 19,000.

Changes in Bay Share

Service Stations & Garages, despite declining in service bay count, had the largest share of service bays at mid-year 2018, 29%, down from 30% five years earlier.

Vehicle Dealers increased their service bay share from 24% to 25% between 2013 and 2018, while Repair Specialists also expanded their share over this five-year span, from 19% to 20%.

Tire Stores maintained the same 11% share of the service bay population in 2018 that they had five years earlier, while Foreign Specialists increased their service bay share from 7% to 8% between 2013 and 2018.

Finally, the residual category of Other outlets fell from 9% to 8% in service bay share over this five-year span.

Greater Volume Per Service Bay

Despite the decline in service bays between 2013 and 2018, the surviving bays managed to handle the surge in DIFM repair over this five-year span.

The average product volume per service bay increased nearly 16% between 2013 and 2018 reflecting the increases in service bay efficiency and production provided by improved software at the repair shop level, greater service bay availability of repair information, better diagnostics, as well as tools and equipment that enable mechanics to more quickly and effectively repair vehicles.

Six Major Takeaways

  • The number of service bays nationwide fell by approximately 8,000 between 2013 and 2018 despite more than a $12 billion surge in DIFM product volume at user-price.
  • Four of the six major groups of repair outlets increased their service bay count, while two groups of repair outlets declined in bay population.
  • Vehicle Dealers recorded the largest growth in bay population between 2013 and 2018, up approximately 11,000, followed by a 9,000 bay increase by Repair Specialists and a 6,000 gain in bays among Foreign Specialists. Tire Stores increased their bay population by approximately 1,000 over this five-year span.
  • Service Stations & Garages suffered a decline of more than 16,000 service bays between 2013 and 2018, while the residual category of Other outlets recorded a bay loss of 19,000 during this five-year period.
  • The average automotive product volume per bay climbed by nearly 16% between 2013 and 2018 as the fewer bays kept pace with the growing light vehicle repair market.
  • See the just-released 2021 Lang Aftermarket Annual for the latest 2019 service bay analysis for each of seven major groups of repair outlets, with a ten-year view of changes in each of their service bay populations.

Copyright 2020 by Lang Marketing Resources, Inc.

NOTESpecial thanks to publisher Jim Lang for granting us permission to publish the Lang Aftermarket iReport.