Today’s automotive aftermarket faces a series of significant issues, both large and small. What we need to guard against, in working toward solutions, is target fixation.
Target fixation is really a driving term that I’ve used a lot in my history with motorsport and advanced driving instruction. It’s the phenomenon where your gaze is fixed firmly on a spinning car and you drive straight towards it. I’ve actually watched drivers follow another car right off the track with no other explanation. It is also why drivers on the road seem to run straight into a stopped car rather than steer around it, despite all the safety systems that technology can offer.
We cannot afford to have that happen to our industry.
Times are changing quite rapidly, and so are the challenges. We have to look for the gaps that provide solutions, and not hammer away at problems with old ideas of what we should be doing.
Getting drivers on the track or on the road to focus on where a car is not in a critical situation is very difficult, but necessary. The same thinking applies to business challenges: if you only focus on the immediate problem, you will quickly find yourself stuck.
If a customer is getting deep into receivables territory, hammering at them to pay their bill on time will not solve their problem – or yours. You’re better off to see it as an opportunity to look for ways to help: getting them to do proper inspections, recommending the work they find, and charging for it properly. Frankly, if every struggling independent garage did at least one of those for every repair every day, their situations would improve immeasurably.
Or take the case of the case of the backwards brake pads, from a DIYer in this issue. While this has renewed calls by some for prohibiting sales to consumers at large – and I respect that view and the honest motivation behind it – I don’t think it is going to happen in the short term. (Maybe we need to start printing “this side out” on brake pads. It may seem a bit like the sign on ladders telling folks that falls can cause injuries, but they do that too.)
There are of course overarching issues facing the industry at large, and I applaud those who are looking at creative ways to find solutions; seeking regulatory relief from future technology lockouts within existing legislation, rather than only focusing on new right-to-repair legislation, presents great potential benefits for the aftermarket.
In this time of much upheaval, those who are focusing on creative, new ways to think about issues facing their business and this industry will win the day. The times, technology, and tools have all changed, and that’s where our focus should lie, before we find ourselves running off the road.