It was only six months ago I wrote an article in The Locksmith Journal assessing the “beginning” of the pandemic, now over a year after the first lockdown we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The pandemic has hit us in so many ways, some businesses have experienced record-breaking sales, many others have had such a bad time they have had to shut up shop and amassed a huge amount of debt. I think it is fair to say, whichever side of the fence you are on it has been a learning curve. Autowave, as a company has had a major restructure and a big change in personnel, in the initial stages it was damage limitation and precautionary, but as 2020 progressed it became strategic. From my numerous conversations with fellow peers in the locksmith industry I get the same vibe and other industries are the same. The pandemic isn’t the only factor that has affected us in the last 12 months, the B word that I used to hear most was “benched” but now that has changed to “Brexit” which seemed to have been lost amongst all the covid chitty chatty. So where do we go from here?
As most of you would have gathered by now, I am quite a positive person and always have good things to say about the auto locksmith industry. So, in that vein I am going to point out a few factors that I feel are going to effect us, starting with the good bits….
Post lockdown there are going to be a lot of vehicles being used that have been parked up for a while, obviously leading to a necessity for keys.
Car dealers are allowed to open, so more cars being bought and sold needing a new key.
Non-essential shops are going to be open this month, so more lost key scenarios are going to arise.
Most main dealers are fully booked due to the pandemic, pushing more business to the aftermarket.
Due to Brexit dealer prices for keys have increased making the aftermarket even more competitive.
The last 12 months have seen some major advances in the capability of aftermarket tools, so more jobs are “doable”.
The price of aftermarket keys has come down dramatically in the last 12 months so more profit to be made.
The list goes on. However, there are three very important groups that seem to be coming up all too often, and are starting to affect the auto locksmith industry; start-ups, mechanics and idiots.
The auto locksmith industry is known to be very profitable and therefore attracts a lot of newcomers, this is inevitable as with any lucrative industry. There are many versions of training available, formal and informal, to varying standards; the direct consequences to the professional auto locksmith are the type of jobs available are changing.
It would be unfair to discourage new start-ups if done properly; with appropriate equipment, training and insurance. It would also be unfair to condemn professional automotive technicians from exploring key programming as it goes hand in hand with the services they offer. But it is important they know their place in the market. I will go into more detail in a future article, as I think this is an important area to discuss. The nice and easy spare key jobs of run-of-the-mill Fords, Renaults and Vauxhalls will eventually disappear as the new fish will be advertising this type of work for a very cheap price.
Where the professional auto locksmith is going to win is the lock outs, the EEPROM work, the all keys lost jobs that require knowledge and experience. The price of these jobs has gone up, and will continue to command a good price point. The Autel monkeys/one tool wonders are becoming more common (next time you get your IM out, remember you are feeding the company that wants garages to wipe out locksmiths), but this just separates the rookies and the veterans; so, move with the times and make sure the price fits the job.
That way, the auto locksmith can continue to taste the sugar in the pie.