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August 14, 2020

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Automotive Aftermarket

The continued effects of COVID-19 on the automotive industry are an all-encompassing, worldwide issue. To further support employee health and safety, several businesses have shifted to work-from-home schedules where possible. For those now returning to offices, many are opting for personal vehicle use to support their commutes versus public transportation.

This is a positive sign for the automotive aftermarket, after the initial declines seen in work volumes for repair and body shops due to far fewer commuters on the road and many families cancelling travel plans. As people continue to change their driving and living habits, automotive shops that haven’t yet started to update their business models may already be significantly behind.

Speaking in April on the Solera webinar, “COVID-19: What’s Now and What’s Next,” Solera International Business head David Shepherd explained that the industry is facing unprecedented challenges that very few businesses were prepared for. “We’re seeing across the UK volumes down by 70 percent. In other parts of Europe, they’re down 80 or 90 percent,” he said.

With Minister of Transport (MOT) test expiration dates extended in the United Kingdom by six months for MOTs due on or after 30 March 2020, there’s less reason for drivers to visit shops for inspections. However, some shops and fleet management firms have seen an uptick in home delivery for these services.

Solera Autodata has been tracking the international COVID-19 automotive-related statistics via its online technical data solution Autodata, used by more than 85,000 workshops in 132 countries.

There was an international slide in workshop volume that began the second week of February. Globally, the least active week for workshops was April 5, with active users seeking technical data down 44 percent from the first week of February. During the same timeframe, overall account usage fell 38 percent -– indicative of some larger multi-user shops sending staff home or staggering work hours.

Countries most affected include New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and France, all seeing falls in workshop activity of more than 50 percent.

CountryFall in activity from Feb 2-Apr 5
New Zealand80%
South Africa68%
United Kingdom*42%

*Excludes overseas territories and collectivities

The overall time workshops spent online accessing data also fell dramatically from the start of the crisis. The week of February 2 represented a peak in terms of time logged researching technical repair data. By the week of April 5, this had dropped 61 percent. However, the industry has since seen this measure rise almost to pre-COVID levels, with the week of June 7 comparable with early February in terms of time spent by automotive shops accessing wiring diagrams, service schedules and other online Autodata information.

However, Michael Landless, Autodata Head of Product, while optimistic about the upward trend, does caution against interpreting this data as indicating a full recovery for shops.

“This could reflect more complex technical issues coming to light in shops as a result of vehicles being idle or underutilised over the lockdown period.”

Overall, active Autodata users have recovered close to almost 98 percent of the pre-crisis total, with page views currently standing at 94 percent. Some of this reflects new uptake in the Autodata product, as workshops explore online tools to help them adjust to the “new normal.”

“I’ve been in this industry and a long while, and I’ve always been proud to be in it – and right at this moment I’m prouder than ever of the industry,” Shepherd said. “Every day we’re seeing different examples of colleagues coming together from across the industry – insurers working closely with repair shops, shops working together with parts companies. The key is open, contactless, touchless, digital communication. I think we’ll see an acceleration of digital and it needs to start with the aftermarket.”

Autodata has continued to improve its online offering, with 427 new vehicle variants added and 10,245 technical information updates made since the start of lockdown, across cars, light commercial vehicles, and motorcycles.

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