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Internet becomes essential business tool for independents

Internet and email is becoming an essential business tool for independent service and repair garages, according to the results of a survey by the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI).

A total of 93% of garages have PCs in their workshops, with 85% having internet access and two-thirds using email.

The survey has also revealed that computers are used for a wide variety of purposes by garages, with most – 91% - using them for garage administration.

Seventy-seven per cent use computers to source workshop information, and 44% use their PCs to order parts.

The survey was conducted in conjunction with Autodata to understand the technical information requirements of independent garages, and the results, says the RMI, could sound the decline and eventual 'death knell' for DIY manuals.

Half of all garages get their technical information from DIY manuals, but just 14% believe this will be their main source of information in five years' time.

The main reason is because garages are increasingly turning to the internet for information, according to the survey, which shows that while only 15% today obtain information from the internet, well over half believe they will, in five years' time, find it on the Web.

Half of all garages said they had no problem getting technical information when they needed it. The other half which had difficulties claimed vehicle manufacturers or dealers either withheld information or were reluctant to part with it. RMI independent garage director, Bob Hood, said: “The fact that almost all independent garages use computers dispels this archaic image that these garages have no grasp of technology and simply refer to grubby, out-of-date manuals when fixing cars. The complete opposite appears to be true.

“The results of this survey send a very clear message to all technical information suppliers that they must adapt to the developing technological capacity of independent service and repair garages and consider more flexible, value for money ways of providing vehicle information.”

Autodata sales & marketing director Brian Quinlan, said: “This exercise underlines the fact that you must never stop listening to your customers.”

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