It’s been a long, hard year for automobile dealers because consumers, worried about their job security, are hesitant about taking on the five-year commitment that comes with a car loan.
But car dealerships’ pain can indirectly be translated into a good year for another sector in the automotive field. Some auto mechanics say they’re busy, mostly because people who don’t want to buy a new car are spending the money to keep the old one on the road.
Others say they’re struggling because people who don’t have the money for a new car can’t afford maintenance, either.
“It’s not the best I’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely not slow. We’re probably seeing an upswing because people aren’t getting rid of their cars,” said Jerry Lubben, owner of Dee &Walt’s Auto Repair in Redlands, Calif.
Lubben said he’s getting more major jobs, such as engine rebuilds and new transmissions. Customers are making the decision to have work done quickly, he said, as opposed to telling him they’ll think about it.
Also, Lubben said, his competitors are now trying to draw in more customers by saturating the market with direct-mail coupons for cheap oil changes, a strategy he’s never employed.
But Blue Loyle, owner of Blue’s Transmissions in San Jacinto, Calif., said if there’s a rush of people looking for a mechanic to rescue their 1994 Hondas, they’re not banging on his door.
Brad Oman, general manager of Plaza Automotive repair in Riverside, Calif., said business has declined 75 percent or more in the last year, and he blames drivers who don’t have enough cash to pay for tune-ups, oil changes or other regular maintenance.
He said he sees customers when the lack of an oil change turns into a $2,000 valve job. But the big-ticket tasks don’t make up for the lost revenue from the absence of smaller jobs, Oman said. “People are afraid to make any kind of a decision that means spending money,” Oman said.