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Despite $21 billion increase in volume, number of overall repair outlets drop

Over the past 10 years, three groups of outlets experienced all of the population losses, while four groups of outlets increased their locations

Fort Wayne, Ind.—The number of light vehicle repair outlets fell by about 23,000 from 2013 to 2023, despite the $21 billion product increase of the light vehicle Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) market.

As DIFM product volume and the number of repair outlets moved in opposite directions, there was a significant change in the population of each of the six major groups of DIFM outlets and, consequently, their DIFM volume and share, according to the latest Lang Aftermarket iReport.

Notably, three groups of outlets suffered all of the population losses, and four groups of outlets increased their locations over those 10 years. Lang also predicts repair outlet population shifts from 2023 to 2025.

The following are highlights from the analysis.

More Vehicle Repair by Fewer Repair Outlets
While the volume of products installed by technicians increased by more than 25% from 2013 to 2023, the number of repair outlets fell by 10%.

Period of Most Rapid Change
In 2020, COVID-19 sent a double-digit decrease through the DIFM light vehicle market across the U.S. At the same time, there was a sharp reduction in the number of repair outlets.

Over the next three years, the DIFM market regained all its product losses and added to its overall volume, but the impact on the total number of DIFM outlets remained.

Fewer Service Stations & Garages
At mid-year 2018, just more than 120,000 “Service Stations & Garages” were performing car and light truck repair in the U.S., down about 4,500 from five years earlier. However, COVID-19 impacted the Service Station & Garage population, as more than 11,000 closed during 2020 and 2021, according to Lang. The number of Service Stations & Garages continued to shrink over the next two years.

Repair Specialists Increase Outlets
The number of “Repair Specialists” (outlets focused on a limited menu of vehicle services) increased between 2013 and 2018. Though like all groups of repair outlets, Repair Specialists saw a 2020 decline in population from COVID-19. However, unlike Service Stations & Garages, Repair Specialists rebounded in population from 2021 through 2023.

Foreign Specialists Record Fastest Increase
“Foreign Specialists” (outlets focusing on the repair of foreign nameplates) climbed nearly 6% in their number of locations between 2013 and 2018.

Despite a low 2020, Foreign Specialists recorded the largest percentage gain in population of any DIFM outlet group between 2021 and 2023.

Tire Stores
“Tire Stores” conducting vehicle repair (beyond that related to tire maintenance) also increased in number between 2013 and 2018, but at a modest rate. COVID-19 reduced the population of Tire Stores during 2020, and they have continued a slow decline since then.

Vehicle Dealers
“Vehicle Dealers” lost about 3,000 outlets between 2008 and 2013. By 2018, the Vehicle Dealer population had regained its growth, adding approximately 500 outlets after the 2013 low point. COVID-19 reduced the Vehicle Dealers’ 2020 outlet count, but they rebounded and added locations between 2021 and 2023.

Other Outlets Fall
The residual category of “Other Outlets” declined significantly between 2013 and 2018, down approximately 2,000 outlets. Similar reductions were suffered between 2018 and 2023, prompted by COVID-19.

Repair Outlets Gaining Population Share
Repair Specialists and Foreign Specialists increased their share of outlets between 2013 and 2023, adding about one-fifth to their combined share. After the economic downturn of 2008 decreased their population nationwide, Vehicle Dealers’ outlet share climbed by about one-sixth from 2013 to 2023.

Repair Outlets Losing Population Share
Service Stations & Garages decreased from about 55% of all repair outlets in 2013 to just over 50% in 2023. Most of this loss was suffered over the last five years. Tire Stores fell about one-twentieth in share between 2013 and 2023, only a modest decline, states Lang.

The residual DIFM category of Other Outlets dropped about one-fifth in outlet share between 2013 and 2023.

DIFM Population Shifts to 2025
Repair Specialists and Foreign Specialists will each add to their population counts and shares from 2023 to 2025. Tire Stores present a mixed bag, with a declining number of outlets but a slight increase in their outlet share between 2023 and 2025.

Service Stations & Garages will experience the largest population and share losses between 2023 and 2025. Dealers’ outlet share will continue to climb from 2023 to 2025. The residual category of Other Outlets will fall about one-tenth in its repair outlet share.

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