There is a gap in the market. A car workshop capable of providing detailed and comprehensive work with transparent pricing in a comfortable environment with working table, free wifi, refreshment, that can handle not just routine servicing but also general repairs, is lacking in Thailand. Throw in the convenience of key drop, pre-appointments, and a “chat-to-buy” technical consultation service and we can clearly differentiate ourselves from the competition.
As most of the so-called repair shops are in fact tire shops, that additional service tend to be what we call “around-the-wheel” services like brake pads, brake discs, suspensions, and perhaps tie-rods and stabilizer bars. Tire balancing, wheel alignment, nitrogen filling, those would be generally considered as standards.
The difference arises when it comes to the drive trains as most of these stores do not handle any form of diagnosis and thus will not have diagnostic scanning tools at their disposal. This means that they rule out handling any form of drive train issues and repairs. To capitalize on this lack of availability, a workshop can be set up that can conduct general drive train diagnosis. The most common types relate to air flow efficiency.
The other potential area is in the service and maintenance of hybrid cars. More car makes have introduced hybrids, to name a few we have BMW, Mercedes Benz, Honda, Toyota and Nissan, and the market expects more in the near future. These hybrids require insulated tools which most independent car workshops do not have.
When it comes to air con gas recovery and topping up, the air con machine needs to run on special oil that do not conduct electricity, with its own compressor to run it. This is one area which independents can include to entice the hybrid car owners away from the dealership workshops.
For maintenance service, throttle body cleaning which is common in other markets is practically non-existent here, so this is something that the workshop can introduce and explain to the customers the importance of such maintenance work and how it can help to extend the life of the car and bring down running costs.
What, really, is a connected car?
In my earlier piece of writing, I talked about major global automotive technology providers moving away from the more traditional automotive service and repair tools and equipment and the related technology, more and more positioning themselves for the advent of the connected car. The feedback to the blog was coming in fast and furious, and surprisingly to me, the most common comment was actually a question one way or another asking me to define what I mean by a connected car.
Simple as it may sound, a connected car can actually mean different things to different people. Thus, to make things clearer here, I shall define the connected car as connection both within the car itself, and car-to-car and car-to-other devices. Now, with this much broader definition, the scope of discussion becomes much wider.
For in-car connectivity, we are talking about enhancing the connectivity within the car through the various sensors, processors and actuators. To make things simpler, let me cite one example which is already in place, and to which it can be further developed for greater connectivity. That example is the maintenance service reminder on the car’s dashboard.
I had breakfast with my good friend Bob running a car workshop, who said that he is seriously considering selling his business. I asked him why, and he said that he foresaw the eventual demise of the traditional car workshop. He has been overwhelmed with so much news and media coverage of the electric car, automated vehicle, and recently the automated transport and logistics run by the car makers in the near future. The latest news is about GM’s investment in Lyft and Toyota Motor Company’s in Grab.
With the electric car, there is no engine and transmission, so there goes the traditional income source for the car workshop. No more oil and lubricant, so no more oil change. No more filter change. No more periodic replacement of spark plugs, ignition coil check, fuel lines, fuel system, and along with them also go all the sensors. Brakes last longer with the regenerative braking system, , no more starter motor and alternators to replace. This is a whole new ball game with the electric car.
For the typical car workshop, what does the future hold for them? I think to break down the vehicle repair and maintenance industry and the key players in the basic structure of the industry, the tire shops can stay, since electric cars still need tire replacement, wheel balancing, wheel alignment and stuff.
What they have to partially forego will be income from oil change. However, in Thailand’s context where 70% of the revenue for the tire shops come from the selling of tires, there appears to be not much of an impact.
Quick lube service stations will have to bear significant impact, so they have to do all they can to retain the customers of older cars. They can still earn from the sale of things like wiper blades, starter batteries, and they have to start to remodel themselves to include lithium ion battery sales and service, become more active in glass repair, sell more air con services, accessories and merchandise. I classify BQuik, PTT Fit Auto and Castrol service stations in this group facing the greatest threat.
It is estimated that the electric car customer will visit the workshop maybe once in 2 to 3 years. Now, the car workshop would really have to do a lot to keep the loyalty of the customer. With such an infrequent visit, loyalty is rare maintaining contact and customer engagement is a real challenge.
Even when the customer visits, the required services are pretty simple and straightforward, like a change of brake pads, some around-the-wheel checks and greasing, the entire service job probably would not even take more than a half hour. So these workshops need to throw in a lot more of free inspection, like lights, batteries, entertainment system, navigation tools, other IoT tools hopefully.
In the very long term, when motors fail, you replace them with new ones. Batteries fail, you replace. When there is software upgrade, independent workshops cannot do the work, customer have to go back to the authorized dealers. Diagnosis of any kind would be via proprietary diagnostic tools, so what is left for the car workshop?
Do not be frightened by this thought, friends. Go ahead and run your vehicle workshops with no fear, keep the passion, because this would not look like happening in the next 20 years. What happens after 20 years, you worry later.