Strong future for independent garages

Francois Hostalier, N! workshop concept project manager, predicts a strong future for independent garages – providing they embrace the digital revolution

Some people in the automotive industry say that the connected car of the future could kill off the local auto repair shop. Do you agree with this vision?

For me it is a definite ‘No!’ That is because the customer will always look to save money, even if the car requests that the maintenance be carried out at the dealer’s workshop. I remember, 15 years ago, a similar topic when it was suggested that the diagnostics on a new generation of electronic cars would restrict services on these cars to the car manufacturer, but today it is not the case. Vehicle data is not the ‘goldmine’ that some companies are predicting, and I believe customers will force car manufacturers to let them choose which workshop they go to. But tomorrow we will have a new revolution in car maintenance with hybrid plugin and electric vehicles. Mechanics must improve their skill in EV management, hybrid technologies, diagnostic and batteries – these will be the future of maintenance.

How are workshops structuring their businesses and preparing employees to face the digital revolution in the aftermarket?

I believe that workshops will need help to make the change. NEXUS, through its NEXUSAUTO network is growing in its influence and is providing digital solutions that could help every garage, wherever they are in the world, to embrace the digital revolution.  A second key point concerns the training and education of workshop staff, because the cars are different and so is the technology of each part. NEXUS is addressing this through the N! Academy programme.

By working with selected leading global manufacturers N! Academy training provides added value, with technicians learning how to increase and adapt their skills. Our members in China are a good example of where this is proving successful, as they are implementing more and more training sessions in their workshops in order to upskill their technicians.

Talking about NEXUSAUTO, how do you see the evolution of the network in coming years? Is there a focus on some countries in the world?

The network is growing and recently we opened new NEXUSAUTO workshops in Eastern Europe and Asia. We have different ways to support the workshops around the world and we prefer not to focus on a single country but we are proud of our success in a number of territories. For example, in China, where repair maintenance is a relatively new concept due to the car parc being quite modern, NEXUS is supporting the development of workshops, creating a real network of garages equipped with trained staff and technicians.

Why do you believe the NEXUSAUTO concept is so successful in France?

France for me is the top in garage network. Competition there is very strong with about 50 different brands with a lot of experience. To grow in this country, NEXUSAUTO is led by a great team and the presence of Claudie Cahart and ID Rechange has boosted the presence of garages very rapidly in the past year. The workshop network was rated as one of the most recommended in France in 2018 by its customers.

Something about yourself, professional and personal life

I am a mechanic with electronic experiences (I have certifications for both), including a great period at PSA engineering by developing 205, 405 on electric power steering, ABS system and CAN network. I like classic cars and, of course, to spend time with my family.