Cox Automotive
Cox Automotive

Finding parts and techs top list of independent repair shop challenges, IMR survey says

May 31, 2023
IMR regularly surveys independent repair shops, and this year finding affordable parts and good workers topped their list of concerns.

In January, automotive researcher IMR surveyed 500 independent automotive repair shop owners to find out what challenges they anticipated repair shops would face in 2023. At the top of the list were finding affordable parts (45%) and finding qualified/responsible technicians (33%).

How many bays a shop had depended on which was more of a concern. Shops with one to three bays found finding solid technicians more pressing, while four or more bays pointed to parts as a bigger concern.

Rounding out the top 5 concerns were:

  • Staying current with diagnostic/software updates (22.8 %)
  • Getting parts on time (22.4%)
  • Keeping up with technology (16.8%)

Here's the full list:

Last year, 29.4 % noted affordable parts as a concern, while 29.4% while 27% worried about getting parts on time. This matches what Fleet Maintenance has heard from shops and distributors. Certain parts, like specialty items, are “not readily available, causing some downtime, but not as broad a scale,” Rodney Gamble, GM and VP of parts sales and operations at FleetPride, told us this spring.

The data suggests shop’s relationships with customers have improved as the pandemic get farther away in the rear-view mirror. In 2022, 31.8% were concerned with bringing customers back/providing incentives, while in 2023, only 16.6% were.

To show how the industry’s priority’s have shifted, one need only look at the differences between 2019 and 2023. The biggest challenge of 2019 was finding time for hands-on technician training (42.6%); while in 2023 only 1.8% of respondents listed that.

Concerns over staying up to date with advances in diagnostics have diminished. In 2019, 31.6% listed this as a concern, 9 percentage points higher than 2023. Noregon predicts that by 2026, there will be one diagnostic tool for every two techs.

That is already a reality in some shops.

“We have probably one-and-three-quarter tools for every technician,” noted Bill Hill, owner of Mighty Auto Pro, an auto mechanic and auto repair center in Medina, Ohio, to Fleet Maintenance. That is indicating the vehicles we’re working on are becoming so complex that we need more specialty tools for them. The pace of change is definitely increasing, and I expect the trend to continue.

Finding good, knowledgeable, and motivated technicians was at 29.2%, so not much a change from this year, indicating the importance of

To read the full report, visit automotiveresearch.com.

IMR and Fleet Maintenance are both owned by Endeavor Business Media.

About the Author

John Hitch | Editor-in-chief, Fleet Maintenance

John Hitch is the editor-in-chief of Fleet Maintenance, where his mission is to provide maintenance management and technicians with the the latest information on the tools and strategies to keep their fleets' commercial vehicles moving.

He is based out of Cleveland, Ohio, and has worked in the B2B journalism space for more than a decade.

Hitch was previously senior editor for FleetOwner, and covers everything related to trucking and commercial vehicle equipment, including breaking news, the latest trends and best practices. He previously wrote about manufacturing and advanced technology for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest.

Prior to that he was editor for Kent State University's student magazine, The Burr, and a freelancer for Cleveland Magazine. He is an award-winning journalist and former sonar technician, where he served honorably aboard the fast-attack submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723).