Auto Repair Shop Specialization: Why Focus Matters

There was a time when many auto repair shops advertised that they specialized in all car makes and models. However, that primarily meant servicing the domestic big three: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. The world of auto repair and service has dramatically changed over the last few decades. With the proliferation of vehicle brands combined with the complexities of the modern automobile, auto repair shop specialization is now essential. Attempting to work on all makes and models, which is trying to be all things to all people, is no longer a sustainable business model.

Today, the roadways of America are filled with vehicle brands from all over the world, including a growing fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles. In addition, look at how the light to medium-duty truck market has exploded in the last 10 years or so. Add in SUVs and cross-over vehicles, and it’s incredible how the automotive industry has transformed over the last thirty to forty years.

For an auto repair shop to be expected to work on all makes and models today would be the same as a restaurant claiming they can cook and serve foods from all over the world: from America, Italy, China, Germany, Korea, and Japan. It’s just not a practical approach to business.

Even the traditional general repair shop model today has its issues. As I mentioned earlier, general repair mainly meant servicing and repairing domestic vehicles. However, domestic cars currently only account for about 50% of the vehicles in operation in the U.S.

The fact is, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to work on multiple vehicle makes and models. The training, the tools, and obtaining the needed technical information are ever-increasing challenges for the automotive aftermarket. Auto repair shop specialization is the key to overcoming these challenges.

While the evolution of the automobile may present obstacles, it also brings opportunities. In this blog, I will outline three key strategies you can use to identify your market and successfully position yourself among your competition, without trying to be all things to all people.


Establish Your Business Model

As stated above, working on all makes and models is not a practical approach anymore. Think about this; is it realistic for a technician to solve a check engine light on a Lexus, then jump to an engine problem on a Land Rover, and then troubleshoot an electrical problem on a BMW? Even if a technician can eventually work his way through the problems on those different car models, how proficient can any technician be bouncing from vehicle model to vehicle model?

It is far better to understand your particular business model, which is building a company brand that identifies the type of vehicles you will work on, and the types of services and repairs you will offer to your customers. This strategy enables you to better manage your training, equipment, and marketing budgets. It also improves production because your entire team can focus on specific vehicle brands and services, rather than an impossible broad spectrum. When you improve production, you improve your bottom line; a financial strategy where a focus on less, ends up being more in terms of profits.

General repair shops still do exist and will exist in the future. However, I would recommend that if you own and operate a general repair shop, you should narrow your focus. Which means deciding what vehicle makes and models your shop will work on, and the services and repairs you will offer to your targeted customers. Essentially, work on the vehicles that you are highly proficient in, and only offer the repairs and services that your team can perform with the highest level of efficiency and quality. This will make it a lot easier to provide the necessary training to your staff, purchase the needed tools, and obtain the necessary technical information. Again, this improves production, which will improve customer satisfaction and your bottom line.


Identify Your Ideal Profile Customer

Most auto repair shops are not mass-market companies, such as Walmart or Home Depot. Mass market companies appeal to the masses. They focus on price and keep prices as low as possible. They attract consumers who are looking for less-expensive alternatives to a wide range of services and products.

While there are exceptions, most automotive aftermarket repair shops fall into the category known as target-marketed companies. Examples of target-market companies include Michelin Tire and Starbucks Coffee. These companies feature and promote value, not price, and attract consumers who appreciate and prefer quality and value.

For today’s auto repair shops, it’s important to identify and market to your ideal profile customer. You already have many of them in your database, and you know who they are. It’s those loyal customers that keep coming back to you, listen to your recommendations, and throw their keys on the counter in the morning and say, “Just fix it, no need to call me. See you at 5:00 pm.” Imagine how much better off your business would be with more customers like that!

Identifying your ideal customer does not limit your market potential. It does the exact opposite. Creating a company that caters and markets to your ideal customers results in attracting and retaining a customer base more likely to be aligned with your values and business model. Ideal customers are also more likely to become long-term loyal advocates and will bring you more of the same like-minded people.


Keep Pace with Technology – Be a Market leader

Whatever business model you decide is best for you, be the absolute best at it. You won’t need to worry about the competition if you become a market leader. This means having the best employees, the best customer service, the highest quality repairs and services, and a reputation for being honest, friendly, and community-minded. However, to be a market leader, you will need to adopt the concept of continuous improvement and continually invest in technology, which is essentially investing in your future.

Employee training is also important. It’s one thing to hire the best people, it’s another thing to ensure that they will be able to service and repair the vehicles of tomorrow. Excellent customer service also requires reinvesting in your facility, the amenities you provide to customers, and everything related to the customer experience. As the industry and the market evolves, you, your employees, and your company must evolve with it.

When you are a market leader, the value proposition of your company becomes obvious. Price begins to fade as an issue, which is replaced with value. This is a powerful competitive advantage in any market environment.



I realize that for many shop owners, this concept may be hard to implement. If you’re one of them, just think how complicated the industry has become in the past decade or so. Consider the amount of money that is needed these days to purchase the equipment, provide the training, and the information systems for the multitude of car makes and models on the road. Auto repair shop specialization and concentrating on your ideal customer base will not limit your revenue or profits. Production and efficiency will improve, and so will customer satisfaction, morale, and profits.

At Elite, we preach what we teach. We don’t attempt to be all things to all people either. We focus on the automotive aftermarket repair shop industry, not the entire automotive industry. How effective would we be if we took a broad approach to what we do? From our one-on-one coaching program, service advisor training, and our Pro Service peer groups, Elite takes a targeted approach to help you with your individual needs and is committed to your personal and business success.


Headshot of Joe Marconi

About the authorJoe Marconi – With over four decades of industry expertise, Joe is a seasoned professional whose accomplishments include owning and operating one of America’s most successful auto repair companies. A graduate of the Automotive Management Institute, Joe is a recipient of the CARQUEST Excellence Award, served on industry panels, and played a role in developing the ASE Engine Performance Certification test. As a former columnist for Ratchet & Wrench Magazine and co-founder of, Joe has been a keynote speaker at the Ratchet and Wrench Conference. After selling his automotive company in 2021, Joe now dedicates his time to giving back to the industry as a Top Shop 360 Business Development Coach with Elite Worldwide and serves on the board of directors for the Service Stations Dealers of Great New York. Joe, a Bronx native now residing in Patterson, New York, enjoys family time, community involvement, and pursuits such as tennis, golf, and woodworking.

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