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The Importance of Being Prepared

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Sept. 8, 2022— A key component for success in the automotive industry is being prepared. Without proper preparation, a repair cannot be completed. On a larger scale, it can be difficult to strategize for the future without setting aside time to establish a plan of action.  

Mike Buzzard is a partner with Schwartz Advisors, a group that provides insights and services to the motor vehicle aftermarket. Buzzard has spent his entire career in the aftermarket, and he understands the unique perspective of the independent shop owner.  

“A big part of my career has been interacting with the independent service dealer,” Buzzard says.  

When looking at the current industry, Buzzard sees the need for shop owners to prepare for the future. Buzzard says this need is due in part to new vehicle technology.  

“The emerging technologies and the impact, especially the independent repair facilities, is one of the most pressing issues that we have,” Buzzard says. “The technology that's being released in vehicles today is more complex than it's ever been. It requires a different level of training, and a different level of tools and equipment to repair those vehicles.” 

As overwhelming as these concepts can seem, Buzzard sees a massive amount of opportunity where some may only see challenges.  

“As the vehicle becomes more complex, I think that it allows the independent to really stand up and say, ‘These are the types of repairs that we can do in our own businesses today to keep the consumer coming back into the independent aftermarket,’” Buzzard says.  

In order to effectively take advantage of this situation, Buzzard explains that each shop owner needs to have their own approach. Buzzard says that it is important for shop owners to know what areas they can and cannot offer expertise on. They need to understand what is worth their time.  

“If you try to do too much, if you try to take out everything at once, you're not really going to be able to be successful,” Buzzard says.  

When it comes to determining the types of services a shop can accomplish, Buzzard says it all boils down to the resources made available to these shops in the first place. Information is constantly shifting with new vehicle technology, and shops need to stay on top of as much of it as possible.  

“The more that we can provide training and solutions to allow [shop owners] to understand what's coming around the bend and what they're going to need to be prepared for, the better off that we're going to be as an aftermarket,” Buzzard says.  

Buzzard acknowledges that accessing these resources also falls on the responsibility of the shops, but he says the aftermarket is known for its ability to adapt. 

“I think our culture, from a general standpoint, is very roll our sleeves up and figure it out,” Buzzard says. “There's opportunity ... for the independents that have that focus [and] that have that mindset to win.” 

Buzzard essentially sees “winning” as being prepared for the future of the aftermarket. Understanding new technology is important, but Buzzard also notes traditional ICE repair isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

“There are still going to be a tremendous amount of vehicles on the road that we’re going to be able to repair with what we know today ... it's not like that's going to dry up anytime soon. In fact, I think it's going to be here for a long time,” Buzzard says. “But to be able to go through and understand the technology and have that entrepreneurial spirit to focus on learning [and] bringing the right tools and technology ... I think [that’s] what's going to help our industry win in the long term.” 

This concept is in line with what Buzzard will be presenting during his opening keynote speech at the ADAPT: Automotive Technology Summit this fall. The event will take place on Sept. 24 and Sept. 25 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.  

Buzzard wants shop owners to think about how they can properly prepare for these industry shifts. It’s an ongoing conversation, but an important one.  

“We're really going to talk about how vehicle ownership is changing and how the demographics of the vehicle owner are changing,” Buzzard says.  

Buzzard encourages shop owners to take the time to consider what these changes could look like in the next five to 20 years, or even beyond. Buzzard notes the concepts of 5G technology, BEVs and automated vehicle technology are worth keeping an eye on. 

It is certain that more change is to come, but Buzzard is confident the automotive aftermarket will thrive.  

“Our business is a great place to be in. I think it's even stronger looking forward than it is today,” Buzzard says. “I think that with the emerging technology and the changing dynamics, that presents a great opportunity for people in the room.” 

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