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Fewer cars on the road means less business for repair shops

Anyone heading out onto the roads of late has certainly noted a drop in traffic volumes. Many of us are staying home, and the resultant economic downturn has had a ripple effect in the automotive industry.

Along with shutdowns by manufacturers and suppliers, the crisis that’s seen fewer cars on the road is translating into less work on the service and repair side of the equation. Though automotive shops were declared essential businesses, some opted not to open and others are offering fewer services due to staffing levels, physical distancing rules or extra sanitary measures, for instance.

The expected lower volumes are reflected in the experiences of local shops.

“It has affected us in a few different ways, with less vehicles on the road: people are staying home. Obviously, the vehicles don’t need as much maintenance,” said Leroy Martin, owner of Leroy’s Auto Care in Elmira, of the coronavirus-related situation.

Martin said he and the workers in his auto shop understand the importance of being an essential service and being able to support people when their vehicles need repair or maintenance.

“We provide a complete automotive service as far as maintenance and repairs on light-duty vehicles,” he said, noting those services are crucial to the function of the country for essential workers.

Martin has put in place some additional protocols to ensure the safety of both staff and customers. Some of these changes include a reduction of staffing in the office and the enforcement of social distancing of two metres. In addition to “trying to keep our office as empty as possible, we are offering things like pick up and drop-offs.”

The pick-up and drop-off service is something that the team has used in the past but never to this extent.

Spring is typically a busy time for tire service, drivers switching out their winter tires, but it’s been a different story this year.

“There are some people that are holding off. I think there is definitely a fear of people coming in,” said Martin, suggesting that the drop-off service is something that can help counter concerns customers may have.

Martin has not had to cut back on staffing, and has added a few extra services, including a full detailing and cleaning of the interior of vehicles.

“We aren’t charging for it, so there is no revenue, but it has helped keep our staff busy.”

Scott Martin, owner of Martin’s Customizing near St. Jacobs, has also seen the impact of the lockdown used to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The shop offers autobody and collision repair. With traffic volumes down, there are fewer collisions.

“We’ve done about half the work we would normally be getting at this time of the year. There is just not a whole lot of people on the roads, so there is not a whole lot of work to do,” he explained.

Martin’s Customizing is a small team, but has reduced by half – to two from four – due to the reduced workload.

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