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Mobile repair grows faster than overall Do-It-For-Me market

Product sales of mobile repair more than doubled between 2016 and 2021, achieving an annual growth rate more than 15 times that of the total light vehicle DIFM market

Fort Wayne, Ind.—Mobile repair currently represents only a small portion of the Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) market, but it is growing at an “explosive rate,” according to a new study. As the DIFM light vehicle market decreased during 2020 and rebounded in 2021, mobile repair grew faster than the overall DIFM market, unhindered by COVID-19.

Mobile repair’s growth is based on a combination of consumer and technical factors, as reported in the new 2023 Lang Aftermarket Annual. The following are a few takeaways from the analysis.

Small But Growing Volume

Although mobile repair represents a small share of the total car and light truck aftermarket market in the U.S., it is experiencing rapid annual growth.

The product sales of mobile repair more than doubled between 2016 and 2021, achieving an annual growth rate more than 15 times that of the total light vehicle DIFM market.

More Mechanics Join the Mobile Market

The number of mechanics employed in mobile repair (full and part time) more than doubled between 2016 and 2021.

Mobile repair is attractive to many mechanics because of its flexibility and rapid expansion. At a time when service bays nationwide are declining, mobile repair offers mechanics an opportunity to supplement their incomes on a part-time basis or migrate to a full-time job in mobile repair.

Mobile Repair Market Momentum

COVID-19 cut deeply into Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) volume during 2020, forcing a double-digit decrease in light vehicle product volume.

Repair outlets rebounded last year with a historic increase in product sales. However, they failed to recover fully from the decrease in 2020 volume, and most DIFM outlets recorded lower sales in 2021 than two years earlier.

In contrast, mobile repair achieved substantial product increases in both 2020 and 2021, and last year its sales were more than 50% higher than in 2019. The rapid addition of full and part-time mechanics boosted mobile repair’s sales capability during 2020 and 2021.

As the number of service bays operated by repair outlets declined between 2019 and 2021, the number of full and part-time mechanics working in mobile repair increased by more than 35%.

Generational Differences

Generations Y and Z represented a greater proportion of mobile repair sales during 2021 than they did across the total DIFM market. The opposite was true of Baby Boomers, who accounted for a larger portion of the total DIFM market than they did for mobile repair volume.

Mobile repair has significant appeal to several key buying preferences of Gens Y and Z: a greater inclination to purchase online rather than in face-to-face transactions, and little interest in a personal relationship with a repair outlet.

In contrast, Baby Boomers prefer face-to-face transactions and are more likely than Millennials and Gen Xers to seek a personal relationship with repair outlets.

Overcoming Disruption Barriers

Mobile repair has overcome three factors that have long protected the auto repair market from disruption: the need for hands-on mechanical diagnosis, getting needed parts at the repair outlet on time, and the personal relationship between car owners and repair outlets.

The use of big data and artificial intelligence are making it easier to diagnose vehicle issues remotely. Mobile repair operations are improving remote diagnosis by applying artificial intelligence to the data bases of vehicle symptoms that they are developing.

Advancing technology has made it easier to get needed parts to repair outlets on time, and the changing values of younger generations have reduced the significance of personal relationships between car owners and repair outlets.

Implications for o2o Growth

The ability of mobile repair to grow within the overall DIFM market and the increased willingness of consumers to purchase auto repairs online are strong indications of the tremendous growth potential of o2o (online to offline) transactions in the car and light truck DIFM market. This is the most significant message of the expanding mobile repair “phenomenon.”

Greater Potential of o2o Auto Repair

o2o auto repair has much greater potential growth in the light vehicle aftermarket than mobile repair because o2o auto repair can be sold by eCommerce platforms, such as Amazon, to millions of households and offered at tens of thousands of brick-and-mortar outlets in their approved repair network.

o2o Impact

o2o auto transactions will increasingly alter how consumers purchase auto repair, where repairs are performed, and how auto parts reach DIFM outlets.

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