Fix investment: new car sales slump boosts repair shops' business

Always subject to the vagaries of the economy, car repair businesses are this time benefitting somewhat from the national new car sales slump

Interview with Tim Gorman

The effects of the economy on car ...

Luis Cedeno, an 11-year veteran with Gorman's Auto Service & Tire Center on Marco Island, works with an air ratchet during a repair job on a customer's car. Quentin Roux/Staff

Photo by qr

Luis Cedeno, an 11-year veteran with Gorman's Auto Service & Tire Center on Marco Island, works with an air ratchet during a repair job on a customer's car. Quentin Roux/Staff

Dwindling new car sales have boosted business for local auto repair shops.

Car owners are keeping their vehicles longer, and opting to pay repair costs — even fairly substantial ones — rather than commit themselves to the much larger expense of new cars.

That’s the word from shop owners Tim Gorman, Scott Case and Keith Pershing, three of Marco Island’s handful of similar service businesses.

Pershing, of Island Automotive, said maintaining older cars has always been more cost effective for vehicle owners, but that the economic slump has now made it more clear.

“Instead of spending $800 a month on SUV payments, a couple of those payments would cover the maintenance of a vehicle for a year,” Pershing said. “It doesn’t take genius to figure that out.”

He said to direct correlation between the new vehicle sales slump and increases in the repair business would be difficult to gauge, however, because of the island’s regular seasonal influx of part-time residents and tourists.

Scott Case of Executive Auto Repair of Marco agreed.

“I’ve talked with other repair people, and from what we see, people are now realizing that it’s more economical to put the extra money into their existing cars,” he said.

“Even if a car isn’t of great value,” he said, “spending $1,500 on fixing it is better than spending $30,000 on a new car.”

Case said because of the economy in general, business hasn’t exactly been booming, but that this trickle effect does help.

In business on Marco since 1993, Tim Gorman of Gorman’s Auto Service, said the historical trend has been to trade in older cars when they need considerable work done on them.

“Now they’re more receptive to repairs, and are hanging on to see what the economy does,” Gorman said.

Gorman said the repair business is not always consistent, and cited an ironical dip that happened in 2005.

“That was when people sold off their real estate and left the island,” Gorman said. “We lost a lot of longtime customers.”

Like Case, Gorman said business at the moment isn’t exactly off the charts.

“But,” he said, “We do have a consistent flow. We fixing cars ... staying steady and fairly busy.”

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