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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.

Solera 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 per cent from the first week of February. During the same timeframe, overall account usage fell 38 per cent -– 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 per cent.

The next most affected country was Ireland, with a 44 per cent fall in workshop activity, according to Solera’s data. The UK meanwhile had a 42 per cent drop in workshop activity.

*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 per cent. 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.

He said: “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 per cent of the pre-crisis total, with page views currently standing at 94 per cent. Some of this reflects new uptake in the Autodata product, as workshops explore online tools to help them adjust to the “new normal.”

Shepherd added: “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.”