Back in the shadows... The auto repair market explores shades of gray

Back in the shadows... The auto repair market explores shades of gray
Back in the shadows... The auto repair market explores shades of gray
7 November, 15:29Photo: Александр Дыбин
Half of the service stations in Russia were affected by partial mobilization, and even more noticed the outflow of customers. But the main problem is spare parts, which have risen in price so much that motorists either refuse services or look for cheap options themselves, which breaks the economy of services.

Alexander Dybin

Difficulties in the auto services market were recorded in a study by a network of independent service stations FIT Service and the analytical agency Gruzdev Analyze. According to a survey of owners and managers of several thousand service stations in different regions of the country, a little more than half of the services were affected by partial mobilization. In 52% of the surveyed service stations mobilized at least one employee. Moreover, most of all this process affected official car dealers and large network companies.

“According to the results of the study, the average value of the share of car services that declare the mobilization of at least one employee was more than half”, - the study says, “as of mid-October 2022, this number has increased to 62%. 7% of services declare that they have mobilized 3 or more people. Relative to the average number of employees at the service station, this is more than a quarter of employees, which can be critical for continuing work. But most service stations do not consider the loss of one employee critical to the continuation of work".

Only 10% of car services, most of which are mini service stations, believe that mobilization will not affect the labor market in any way. At the same time, the remaining 90% agree that the industry may face difficulties in attracting personnel in the future. Among the risks, they most often say that “there will be no one to work”, or that “there will be old people who will retire in 2-3 years”.

Against this background, services also record a drop in the flow of customers.

“On average, only 17% of car services say that the number of customers has not changed, and 98% of car services say that the number of customers has not increased”, - the authors of the study note, “more than two-thirds of car services declare a decrease in customer flow from 1% to 19%".

Here, again, official dealers suffered the most (they lost 19% of customers) and network service stations (a drop of 11%).

Shades of gray

The fall in income leads to the fact that the business is looking for options to survive in the new conditions. One of the ways is to liquidate the legal entity and work "for yourself" in order to optimize taxes and payments for employees. Hundreds of service stations have been closed in Moscow and St. Petersburg since the beginning of the year. Vice-President of the National Automobile Union Anton Shaparin believes that this is an attempt to hide from the gray zone, and in reality, many closed services continue to work in a garage format.

“A number of services that worked in the white are announcing the closure, but in fact everyone will go into the shadows”, - says Anton Shaparin, “this is done due to the fact that the consumer does not have the previous opportunities to pay for repairs. Expenses have risen in price, so they stop paying taxes, go into the gray zone. We see this flow of demand. Services are hard to survive. Including because of the mobilization processes. There are not enough personnel. At the same time, gray services do not have such problems, because the state has no one to come to, legally there is no employer. The third point is spare parts. Now it has become easier, logistics is being established, but there are still difficulties. For example, with the departure of Mercedes, there is a risk that dealer software will be unavailable. And there, in order to change the headlight, it must be flashed online. And it becomes impossible".

According to the expert, another unobvious risk is the new rules for paying out insurance, companies stopped sending CMTPL customers for repairs to services, and began to pay compensation, which are calculated at reduced prices.

“People will not be able to repair broken cars with this money, the number of bodywork operations will decrease, and as a result they will drive broken cars”, - says Anton Shaparin, “there is a shortage of paints and body parts. Auto disassembly will come to the fore. And we do not have legislation on dismantling, no one makes demands on where the spare part came from, what quality it has. The risk zone is obvious. We got out of the shadow for a long time, but now we are returning to it”.

The owner of a car service from St. Petersburg, the founder of the club of independent service stations, Alexander Pakhomov, does not agree with the division into gray and white services in principle. According to him, everyone pays taxes, but garage service stations focus on the low segment of the market, because owners of inexpensive and old cars also need service.

“There is a process of closing service stations, but we can quantify it only by indirect data,” the expert says, “the announced figures about closed services were formed from the statistics of the 2gis service. I don't think this is an exact cross section of the market. What is white and gray? If a car service has a TIN, it pays taxes. From the point of view of the law, nothing else is needed for legal work, no additional documents. We know for sure that a significant part of the accusations against the independent market, that we have counterfeit spare parts, that we are illegal, is an attempt to compete with our market segment by not very honest entrepreneurs. And our segment actually created the market. People have a demand for garages where 1-2 self-employed craftsmen work. They serve low-end customers who don't have the money for an expensive service. Of course, from the point of view of the owner of a Mercedes, coming to such a garage is a horror, but from the point of view of a person who cannot buy a Mercedes, this is a normal service. Service consumers are different, and the worldview is different, which is why the services are so different from each other”.

Their spare parts break the economy of service stations

According to Alexander Pakhomov , the situation with the cost of spare parts has the most impact on the service station market. What comes through parallel imports is too expensive, so customers are looking for cheaper options and come to the service already with their own spare parts. This is what hits the market the most.

“The service economy is built in such a way that the money that we receive directly for services is spent on salaries, taxes, consumables, tools”, - the expert says, “and money for development or marketing can be taken from the extra charge for spare parts that customers purchase from us. That's where they got into trouble. The greatest difficulties are with body parts, glasses, optics, interior elements. Today there is none of this for reasonable money. All stocks are exhausted, and what they bring is very expensive. Compared to January, prices increased from 30 to 80%, and for some items even doubled. Some customers refuse services altogether, some come with their own spare parts purchased elsewhere. The share of so-called "tolling" parts has risen sharply and the economy has deteriorated".

The expert notes that it is now difficult to make predictions about how the market situation will develop. During this year, car services experienced about five waves from a complete drop in demand to a return of customers.

“The demand fell, then there was a stir”, - says Alexander Pakhomov, “we must wait until the transition process in society is over and then look back and assess what happened. We must live and work, be flexible. And all will be well".

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