Although the manufacture, distribution and retail sales of tyres take ‘centre-stage’ in terms of recognition within the industry, it is also worth remembering that other equally important services within the garage and maintenance sector, such as wheel alignment, play an important role in the market.
I have recently carried out a general survey on after-sales services in the UK and Europe and discovered that garages, fast-fits and other tyre outlets are increasingly realising that offering a service in wheel alignment can be a ‘hidden gem’ when looking for additional income and profit.
Independent industry surveys over the past twelve months have indicated that an overwhelming 90% of vehicles on today’s UK and European roads actually require wheel adjustment; therefore all garages and fast-fits have a current customer database where almost every driver would benefit from an alignment check, thus presenting an opportunity for extra revenue.
Wheel alignment is not part of routine vehicle servicing and, with steering and suspension constantly changing, this service appears to be a perfect opportunity to increase income. Especially as when correctly aligned, a car or truck increases its fuel economy, offers the ultimate in ride comfort whilst reducing driver fatigue. At the moment, a surprising 45% of automotive-related businesses do not offer wheel alignment as a customer service.
Wheel alignment geometry is primarily based on a vehicle’s ride height; so, as the suspension system changes with age, alignment settings need to be adjusted back to their optimum specification in order to avoid misalignment which is caused through general wear and tear and other components becoming ‘out of line’.
During my research, I have discovered that some automotive businesses prefer to contract out their alignment work which, in my opinion, is surprising when you consider that by acquiring their own aligner, they would effectively save time and generate increased profit whilst ensuring even better control over when the work is carried out.
There is no doubt that wheel alignment has now become an essential service option for ambitious garages and fast-fits in the UK and Europe and over the past decade, it has steadily progressed in terms of technology and product design. It is also worth-noting that more and more vehicles have an increasing amount of adjustment points added in production and it is increasingly considered that wheel alignment is therefore necessary to cope with this advance.
So, having decided that additional trading profit from alignment would be a welcome bonus, how does a company decide what type of aligner it needs? Well, there is the option of either a four-wheel computer aligner or a four-wheel laser aligner and the only difference is in the way both machines operate. With a computer system, the four measuring heads are fitted to the wheels whilst for a laser model, the alignment heads have to be mounted on the rear wheels first.
Obviously the major issue for a prospective aligner purchaser is profitable return and quite simply, alignment can provide a daily income immediately (depending on the number of alignments carried out) and once this income has covered the cost of the machine, from then on...it is sheer profit every time the aligner is used.
In talking to a number of companies already enjoying the benefit of working with aligners, I discovered that until recently, from a technological point of view, Europe led the way. However, recently the UK has caught up with their European partners. So what of the future? How will wheel alignment develop in the next few years?
I am reliably informed that in due course a new, revolutionary ‘touchless system’ will become available which will be able to measure a car without the need to fit targets or measuring heads to the wheels.
In conclusion, it is a very uncertain business world out there at the moment on a global basis and, although the quality of tyres will continue to increase through the discerning demands of the market, increasingly the sale of tyres cannot provide an acceptable income and profit for ambitious garages and fast-fit companies. So may be an additional customer service option of wheel alignment could be the answer.