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As I’m sure you’ve heard, Blockbuster Video has gone out of business. DISH Network, which owns Blockbuster, officially announced last week that they would be closing all 300 U.S. Stores. There was a time when local video stores were the dominant retail outlets to rent movies from. Then along came the mega-video stores like Hollywood Video and Blockbuster, which slowly but surely forced many mom and pop video stores to close their doors. Then Netflix, RedBox and streaming videos came along. These services had less overhead, were less expensive for consumers and more convenient. Not considering Blockbuster’s subscription program that was similar to Netflix, a rental of a new release cost approximately $5 while the same movie rented from RedBox cost $.99. That’s a significant difference for a consumer and, with over 42,000 kiosks nationwide there were many locations for consumers to patronize.
There are some parallels that have been appearing in the automotive service industry. Last week, I wrote an article that illustrated a new app named OpenBay with which consumers have the ability to solicit bids from repair shops. If you search “OpenBay car repair” on Google, the search engine returns over 25,000 results including articles from prominent sources. Another service operating in the San Francisco Bay area, Drop and Go Auto, has been getting rave reviews and seeing a lot of buzz from prominent social media personalities including Jeremiah Owyang who has spoken at automotive conferences and has over 140,000 Twitter followers and similar audiences wherever he is present online. Drop and Go Auto offers door-to-door bumper-to-bumper auto repair for all makes and models, and is endorsed by AAA.
While recent auto sales have been increasing, Automotive News recently reported that the North American Auto industry would see a supply chain bottleneck within 5 years due to a lack of tooling capacity. Not only does this effect manufacturers ability to make vehicles, it also effects suppliers ability to make parts. Assuming this prediction comes true, this will affect both the sales and fixed ops departments of dealerships.
The combination of these trends and predictions make several key issues stand out to me:
Video rental stores aren’t going out of business because people don’t want to rent movies. There is still a huge demand for entertainment. What’s happened is that companies have found less expensive ways to deliver this content to consumers, which has led to lower pricing and greater convenience. If the consumer begins to believe that the quality of service at a dealership is the same as that of an independent, pricing will begin to dictate consumer choices when it comes to deciding where to take their vehicle for service. Your fixed ops revenue is your bread and butter. Start making changes and plan how you’re going to protect it. Because there are plenty of challenges coming that seek to take it away.