“Why do I need to remove the front bumper just to change my indicator bulb?!” Unfortunately, I think this statement will become more and more of a realty. Often we forget that from an Automaker’s perspective, the most important aspect of engineering is how quickly and consistently you can put a car together, not how simple it is to take apart or reach a failed component. As vehicles contain more parts and product demand continues to force plants to be at full capacity, Automakers are forced to come up with more efficient processes in order to increase production without adding cost to existing set ups.
Those bolts that no tool or human hand could ever reach while an engine is in the vehicle are probably exactly that! They were placed there before the engine was married to the chassis. Gottlieb was standing in middle of an empty engine bay to place that wiper motor there. The earlier in the assembly process the component is secured, the longer it will take for us to deconstruct the process, replace the part, and then reassemble everything. This adds in so much labor that DIY is dead simply due to excessive amount of specific tools, time, and space needed for the job.
This is the main reason I don’t see people doing their own repairs in the future (or now for that matter). It’s not because people don’t have the skill or interest in learning. In fact I believe vehicles will become simpler and simpler to put together and take apart! The reason DIY will continue to die out is because no one will have enough spare time to actually do the process. Who has time to find a place with tools, time, and room dedicated to doing this entire song and dance routine (plus the occasional beer and the mandated socket wrench sacrifice)? Well mechanics of course!
*Up to this point everything should sound completely familiar. Perhaps you are experiencing these same situations within your own life today? Let’s keep speculating...*
As mentioned before, someone will need to reverse the assembly process until they can reach the component they need to replace. After that, they will need to be able to reassemble everything in the correct order. The factory order will of course be the quickest and most precise method simply due to the fact that the Automaker has had the method engineered to be the quickest and most precise process possible. You now have people that need to know the method and have the tools in order to facilitate the process which will decrease labor time and stress.
All of a sudden the Automaker is equipping dealers with the tools, instructions, and training needed to handle these vehicles. The independent shops are stuck having to do a crap-ton of labor in order to do the same task. Now that the dealer has everything they need while the independent shops are stuck guessing, you have the labor times becoming significantly higher in the independent shops than with the dealer services. This means that even though the stealership charges $119 an hour compared to your indie shop’s $59 an hour for the same job, that task takes the indie shop 3 hours to manage (totaling $177 in labor) while the factory shops can do it in 1.5 hours (totaling $178.50 in labor). While the prices may still be the same to the consumer, whether or not you get your car back the same day completely changes.
As the labor needed to reach a certain component increases, the time and opportunities for mistakes increase as well. Independent shops will need to cut their prices in order to stay competitive with the dealership or become factory-supported shops themselves. Now we are talking about a world in which we have privately owned local shops working with the Automakers to acquire technician training and likely paying a monthly leasing charge for the brand specific tools supplied by the Automaker. Now these “factory certified” shops are able to do the same 3 hour job in only 2 hours. However, now they need to charge $68 an hour in labor in order to make up for the training and tool leasing fees. The Indie’s have their old value advantage against the dealerships and the Automaker now has a database and revenue stream coming in from Big Joe’s Garage and Bar-B-Cue (they got a pool table during the remodel, it’s awesome!).
The future of auto repairs becomes the following:
- The amount of labor required for simple tasks cements the end of Do-It-Yourself repairs.
- In the situation of Dealership vs. Indie Shop repairs, the dealership wins hands down.
- Indie Shops have to deal with an Automaker in order to learn the processes for repair and receive the tooling in order to cut down on labor time. Those that do not risk losing thousands of dollars weekly attempting to compete with factory-supported shops.
- Automakers no longer need to consider accessibility of components due to the only people able to work on their vehicles being solely those that have come to them for the supplies and training. Automakers now have leverage over any shops wishing to work on modern vehicles.
*Think of the McLaren 570s engine cover requiring special tools just to see that 3.8L or the Alfa Romeo 4C’s front hood not even opening. Now imagine the same inaccessibility with your Accord or Rav4. “They never breakdown anyways, why do YOU need to reach the engine?”*
The one great benefit to all of this is that the quality of repairs and shops will increase as well as making your mother’s Corolla S impossible to even be considered for the Qwiky-Lube’s new brake replacement service (which is now only $89 with coupon and Signature 3-Point Air Pressure Alignment). Best of all though, warranties (whether original or extended) will be backed by the factory in more situations since Big Joe’s Garage and Bar-B-Cue is certified by Audi remove the W12 in your A8 in order to replace the cabin air filter.