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Potential for record-high number of light vehicles per bay in U.S. by 2025

Opportunities exist for diagnostic and equipment that speed repairs, and shop management programs, vehicle repair software that increase tech output

Fort Wayne. Ind.—The vehicle population in the U.S. is rising, but the number of service bays is moving in the opposite direction. From 2016 through 2021, the car and light truck vehicles in operation (VIO) increased by more than 15 million. However, the service bay population has dropped significantly, according to a recently released report.

“COVID-19 spurred the closing of 19,000 service bays across the country during 2020, and the loss of bays continued last year. This pushed the number of vehicles per bay to a record-high level during 2021,” stated the new 2023 Lang Aftermarket Annual.

Here are a few highlights from the analysis.

Vehicle and DIFM Market Growth

The car and light truck VIO in the U.S. grew by more than 15 million in the past five years, and the Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) market expanded by more than $5 billion in product sales at user-price.

This growth in the number of vehicles and their repair volume should have sparked an increase in service bays across the U.S., Lang stated, but, surprisingly, the opposite occurred and the bay population has decreased.

Service Bay Puzzle

• Notwithstanding the volume of products installed by technicians increasing by more than 6% at user-price between 2016 and 2021, there were fewer car and light truck service bays each year.

• At mid-year 2019, there were more than 6,000 fewer service bays in the U.S. than three years earlier. This bay loss occurred despite an increase in cars and light trucks on U.S. roads.

• COVID-19 accelerated this process, as 19,000 bays closed in the U.S. during 2020. The bay population continued to shrink during 2021, with the bay loss topping 45,000 between 2016 and 2021.

Rising VIO and Fewer Bays

The falling number of service bays coupled with the increasing car and light truck population has continued to increase up the number of vehicles per bay in the U.S.

Record Vehicles Per Bay

• In 2016, there were 225 cars and light trucks in the U.S. for each light vehicle service bay.

• As the bay count declined and the light vehicle population increased, the number of vehicles per bay reached 235 by 2018.

• Over the next three years, the situation grew more critical. There were 246 cars and light trucks per bay in the U.S. during 2020, with the vehicle count in 2021 up by more than 11% over 2016.

VIO And Service Bay Trends

The number of service bays will continue to decline over the next several years, despite the growth of cars and light trucks on U.S. roads, which will be dampened by the low new vehicle sales during 2020 through 2022.

As a result, Lang Marketing projects there will be a new record-high number of cars and light trucks per bay in the U.S. by 2025

Mobile Repair Fills a Gap

The growing number of vehicles per bay in the U.S. provides a growth opportunity for mobile repair. As Lang Marketing reports in the new 2023 Aftermarket Annual, mobile repair has grown at a rate more than 10 times that of the total DIFM market over the past five year.

Aftermarket Challenges and Opportunities

With the increasing number of vehicles per bay and the growing aftermarket DIFM volume, service bays must become more productive to keep pace with the mounting repair demands.

Lang states that this provides significant opportunities for suppliers of diagnostic and installation equipment that speed up vehicle repair and for shop management programs, vehicle repair software, and other products that increase technician output.

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