It has been well over three years since the world woke up to the news of the COVID-19 outbreak. What followed was the profound disruptions to the global industries with pandemic-induced lockdowns and slowdowns. Already faced with a host of problems, like environmental issues and regulatory changes, the ramifications of COVID-19 have severely affected the automotive aftermarket.
Against this backdrop, KARREP reflects on the disruptions faced and things the industry has learned through the course of the pandemic.
Changing Customer Behaviour and Adaption of New Reality
With the onslaught of the corona, OEMs and component manufacturing plants were shuttered around the world and vehicle sales dropped dramatically. Also, there was a huge reduction in the use of vehicles due to a combination of government lockdowns and fears of contracting and spreading the virus. Reduced mobility during lockdown means fewer vehicles at risk of collision and maintenance. As a result, customer footfall in the garages and body shops has fallen sharply.
These abrupt shifts have left many workshops scrambling to thrive and effectively serve customers by adapting to new marketing realities.
The pandemic has changed customer behaviours, some permanently. Many customers have also begun to rely more on new omnichannel models such as car services apps and door-to-door car services.
To remain relevant in this changing environment, workshop managers are trying their best to partially offset diminished foot traffic in physical stores by boosting investments in the online arena and bringing cognitive business practices.
Towards Digital Transformation
Even before the pandemic, the automotive aftermarket had its share of digital disruption. The advent of electric cars, autonomous vehicles, and connected mobility were already paving the way for futuristic workshops; the COVID-19 outbreak only accelerated its pace.
As COVID-19 engulfed the global market, industry honchos perceived the growing relevance of automation and digitalisation. Taking a leaf out of other major heavy industries, the experts concluded that going digital and technology will have a significant role in the automotive repair and maintenance industry.
With the lessons learned from the pandemic and leveraging the transformative potential that the Fourth Industrial Revolution holds for the auto repair industry, garages and body shops are now integrating emerging technologies like IoT, AI, AR and VR to deliver greater efficiencies, enhanced resilience and new ways of working.
New Health and Safety Norms
COVID-19 has amplified the sector’s existing health and safety risk. To perform under pandemic conditions, Government, Industry apex bodies and the individual workshops themselves have developed health and safety practices and hygiene precautions along with normal guidelines, such as;
- Enhanced cleaning of work areas with disinfectants
- Disposable gloves used as needed
- Limiting contact with the customer
- Handwashing between each customer interaction
- Wearing gloves used as needed when driving a customer’s vehicle
- Minimising contact with the interior of vehicles
On the whole, the COVID-19 crisis – albeit being devasting to the automotive repair and maintenance industry – has sped up the transition in areas such as automatization and digitisation by several years.
Barring unexpected catastrophes, the industry is now looking forward to shaping its future rather than just grinding through the present. The great acceleration in the use of technology, digitisation, and new forms of working will be sustained. There is no going back and the next normal is going to be different.
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