The cost of servicing specialty stores has soared in recent years, according to new data released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The IIHS said in a new report that specialty stores now account for more than half of the auto industry’s $5.5bn in sales in the US.
The report, published on Monday, also shows that the cost of auto repairs has more than doubled since 2009, reaching $4,716 per vehicle in 2020.
Auto companies are also scrambling to reduce costs.
The latest US auto production numbers showed the industry’s production was up by only 2.5 per cent in the second quarter of this year, compared with the same period a year ago.
In the first half of 2020, production was down by 4.3 per cent.
The IIH said the rise in repair costs had not been matched by a corresponding rise in retail sales.
A major reason for the rising cost of repairs is the rise of new, higher-margin models, with some specialty retailers such as AutoNation, Target and Lowe’s adding prices for a new model to the prices they charge for their regular models.
In addition, the IIHS found that the number of specialty stores grew by 5.7 per cent from January to June of this season, as consumers increasingly turned to auto services as a way to shop and save money.
The costs of servicing the stores has increased over time, particularly in the last five years, the report said.
The cost of an average repair rose from $2,400 to $4:40, a 3.3-fold increase, the highest it has been in 25 years.
At the same time, the number and percentage of specialty retailers rose by 8.2 per cent, to 16.3 million.
“The growth of specialty retail is a direct consequence of the growth of new and higher-cost specialty vehicles, as well as a shift in consumer spending toward services such as home and auto repair,” said Michael Fung, a research fellow at the IIH.
IHS is a research and advocacy organisation that aims to reduce the financial, health and safety risks to people, the environment and economic wellbeing.
It said in the report that the rise is partly due to the rise and popularity of new models, which are increasingly used by consumers, and to increased competition from smaller retailers.
Consumers are increasingly turning to specialty retailers as a means to save money, a trend that has also been seen in other industries.
For example, in 2016, consumers spent $1.2 billion on specialty goods, including clothes, shoes, home goods and home electronics.
But the IIS said consumers were also increasingly buying from the internet, as a cheaper alternative to buying from stores.
One of the main drivers of the increasing cost of specialty repairs is a growing number of online services, such as Lowe’s, Target, Walmart and Walmart Supercenter.
The companies are using the internet to sell products directly to consumers, rather than to retailers, the authors said.
However, online services have been criticised for their poor customer service, which they are now addressing through online customer reviews.
The second-largest category of specialty retailer is AutoNation.
Its profits rose by 15 per cent last year to $2.3bn, the second-highest increase of any retailer.
Its online sales increased by 22 per cent to $764m.
Walmart is the third largest of the three largest specialty retailers.
Its profit rose by 9 per cent over the year to about $1bn.
Retail sales at other specialty retailers declined.
Other companies included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which said that the industry had fallen to “a low ebb”.
The IIS report said that specialty retailers also saw a surge in the number who have become self-employed, with the number growing from about 1 million in 2010 to 1.3m in 2020, representing an increase of 60 per cent since 2010.
Some of the most common occupations in the industry are retail and office workers, such at stores such as Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Target.
While the average cost of a repair at specialty stores rose by 4 per cent compared with a year earlier, the increase was still smaller than the overall average, according the IIG report.
And specialty retailers are often struggling to keep up with demand, with an average retail sale in 2020 falling by 9.6 per cent as compared with 2010.