For years, car owners and independent auto repair shops have faced a common threat: A growing monopoly on auto repairs and maintenance.
The computerization of modern vehicles has given auto manufacturers the ability to, essentially, lock car owners and independent repair shops out of the inner workings of the cars they build. This forces car and truck owners to their dealership for repairs and maintenance that might otherwise be done – at a lower price – by their local garage. This means an uneven field of competition for auto repairs and increased costs for car owners.
Have you ever gone to a local repair shop for some routine maintenance or a repair and had the mechanic tell you, “Sorry, you’ll have to go to your dealership”? If you have, you know what I’m talking about.
If this has happened to you, you may have thought, “Hey, that’s not fair. My dealer will charge me much more than what the local garage would charge!” And you’re right. You will pay more at the dealership – up to 34 percent more, in fact – and it’s not fair that you can’t take your car wherever you want to have the work done – including, if you are handy with a wrench, your own driveway! You own the car, after all – all of it. Yet manufacturers have kept the key to a piece of it.
With thousands of car dealerships closing all over the country, this issue has suddenly escalated into one of real consumer risk as well. A car owner whose local dealership has shuttered might have to drive quite a distance for maintenance or repairs. If the vehicle is not running properly, this is flatly dangerous.
The danger from this practice also extends to our state and national economy. New York's aftermarket industry (the repairs and parts industry) is vital to our state's economy. I own an auto repair shop and I can tell you that my fellow shop owners and I, altogether, employ just over 94,000 people in the state of New York. That is roughly 1.1% of the state's total workforce. Our annual sales are approximately $14.7 billion, meaning we are a real player in the economic health of the Empire State.
Nationally, our industry generates annual sales of approximately $267.1 billion (that’s 2.4 percent of the U.S. GDP) and employs 5 million people (2.6 percent of the American workforce) providing the products and services needed to support the nation’s 240 million registered vehicles and 201 million licensed drivers.
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