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Independent repair shops' top concerns include recruitment, diagnostics

Feb. 6, 2024
While many of the challenges facing independent shops are the same as last year, IMR found that more shops are worried about technician recruitment and keeping up with diagnostic software updates than in 2023.

The top concerns for independent shops in 2024 appear to be staffing technicians to service and repair vehicles, and providing them with the latest diagnostic tools to do their job, according to IMR's latest report.

The automotive market research arm of Endeavor Business Media surveyed 500 independent vehicle repair shops, and 56% listed finding qualified\responsible technicians as the top challenge. Staying current with diagnostic software updates came in second at 36.4%. The research was conducted in Dec. 2023.

These challenges have significantly increased since last year’s report. The amount of shop respondents who said finding good techs was the top concern grew by 70% year over year. Last year one in three indie shops listed hiring quality techs; now it’s more than half.

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

Keeping up with diagnostic updates was a top concern for 22.8% of shops in 2023, so nearly 60% more respondents listed this a top concern in 2024. There’s a marked difference in who is most troubled. Nearly half of shops with eight or more bays (48.6%) considered staying with diagnostics as a challenge, while only 11.2% of shops with three or fewer bays felt the same way.

Smaller shops appeared far more susceptible to parts pricing. Nearly 44% of shops with one to three bays said the second largest concern was finding affordable parts, versus 27.3% of shops with 4 to 7 bays, and 35.1% of shops with 8 or more. In all, 30.8% of the 500 shops surveyed listed finding affordable parts as a challenge in 2024. This is down from 45% in 2023, when it was the top concern, according to the 2023 IMR research.

Sentiments on technician retention veered dramatically year over year, with 27.2% now listing keeping qualified techs as a top concern, three times more than the 8.6% in 2023. This is especially true for larger shops with eight or more bays, who now rank retaining qualified techs as their second biggest problem as opposed to their fourth in 2023.

Keeping overhead costs low and the impact of the economy on their businesses were cited by 23% as additional concerns, up from 16.2% in 2023. This was especially true for smaller shops with only one to three bays. Last year, only about one in 10 shops ranked keeping overhead costs down/economy impact as a top challenge, but in 2024, that number rose to 39.3%. 

However, on an encouraging note, far fewer shops are worried about bringing customers back and needing to provide incentives in 2024, as it only ranked as a top concern for 5.6% of shops in this survey, as opposed 16.6% the previous year.

To read the full report, visit automotiveresearch.com.

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