By Joe Marconi
With Mother Google literally tied to our hands, through our cell phones; are part margins becoming more difficult to achieve? Traditionally, shops use a 50% part margin, which they deserve. But, we live in a world today where part prices are so transparent that maybe we need to rethink this.
Consider this: What if we concede on prices? Hold to a suggested list…BUT…raise our labor rate to offset the loss in overall profit. In other words, keep your parts prices at a margin the consumer will not question, but raise your labor to make up the part profit?
This is being discussed around the country and there are shops that have implemented this strategy. We can’t give up our overall gross profit, so is this a viable option?
Virginia's Governor in his 2020 budget proposal has included elimination of the state's vehicle safety inspection program. In addition, a state legislator has introduced a bill doing the same. I serve on the board of the Virginia Automotive Association, a group of over 200 independent shops who have banded together to lobby in the interests of our industry. VAA has ponied up a a $25000 increase in the lobbying budget to fight the move. As a shop owner, I have mixed emotions on the subject, but if I were gambling I would bet that the program will go away. On one hand, it's kind of nice that the state's motorists are forced to bring their cars to a shop once a year, giving us an opportunity to make them life-long customers. Also, it has created a cadre of technicians in the state who have been vetted and background checked by the state police. On the other hand, there are a litany of negatives inluding customer resentment, anger when their vehicle fails, uneven management by the state police who oversee the program due to limited resources. Some shops are "by the book" while others are "sticker mills" who will pass anything. Unfortunately, VAA and others have been unable to produce hard statistics that show that the program .makes a difference in highway safety. The big studies I have found blame driver error for the majority of accidents. What is ironic is that just this year VAA won a long battle to get the inspection fee raised from 16 to 20 dollars. The legislature convenes in January to enact laws that will take effect in June.
I would like to hear how other Virginia shop owners feel and I would like to hear from other states that have witnessed termination of these programs.
It's that time of year again folks! VisionKC is coming up right around the corner.
And that means that the annual ASOG dinner is ramping up its registration efforts!
The dinner is open for all to attend, regardless of membership to ASOG and all proceeds go to the ASOG scholarship efforts!
ASOG will bring another lucky shop owner with 3 years or less in business to VisionKC. This will be the 3rd scholarship the group has provided, but it certainly won't be the last. We look forward to providing scholarships to events all over the country, and working to ensure scholarship winners are given the tools and paths needed to succeed.
Jacob and Lacey Bunyard were last year's winners - when we met Jacob and Lacey things were tough! It wasn't just the business that was suffering, through the suffering of the business, Jacob and Lacey's family...their children were paying the true price.
Today, Jacob and Lacey, through the connections and offerings presented at VisionKC have turned the business from a significant liability into a resource which provides a good life for their family.
We've also offered scholarships to the greatest automotive show in the south east, ASTE by The Independent Garage Owners Of NC and seen tremendous growth of that shop owner as well.
We ask that you, as shop owners, and part of the automotive family join us for dinner. We ask that you support our efforts to improve this industry, even if it's one shop at a time. And most of all, we ask that you join us in continuing to bring unity to shops nationwide, to continue to share a vision of something better for this industry - a higher potential, a better life for owners who haven't been given the opportunity to see there's a better, more profitable way.
Isn't it time that we stop seeing each other as competition, but as allies?
Please join us for dinner if you are able.
Information about the dinner is available at
I currently employ a mechanic and friend who has been with me for about 20 years. He was formerly a transmission rebuilder, but we have switched to mostly reman units and have no need for a rebuilder. His pay has remained the same despite his value declining. I am currently paying him roughly $100,000 a year. The problem i'm having is that his skill set is not near that pay level anymore. He does light diagnostic and basic managerial work, but I am not confident enough for him to run the shop for more than an hour. With the current state of the industry our numbers have gone down a bit over the last two years. While still being profitable, I can't help but think about the extra income that would be available by terminating this employee, I just dont know how to do it. Any advice on how to do this? I like him as a person and have known him a very long time, but I feel his is paid about twice as much as he is worth. Any help wouldbe greatly appreciated.