Car repair businesses hope slow economy will help, not hurt

While banks, automotive companies, newspapers and shopping malls are all suffering from the weakened economy, some auto repair and transmission shops are experiencing a jump in business.

Some are also hurting, making this industry one that is affected in different ways across the board.

“We’ve been picking up in the past four weeks,” said Terry Glass, vice president and owner of Cottman Transmission in Burlington.

Even though Cottman has had a drastic drop in business since last April, Glass is becoming more and more optimistic about the coming year as the need for service increases.

He credits this to a change in the economy from a “replace it to a repair it” environment. People are taking their cars to get serviced instead of buying a new car altogether, a cost of roughly $1,800 for a complete transmission versus $35,000 for a brand-new car, he said.

“I’m looking to have a good year this year,” Glass said. Cottman has expanded its services and its hours.

Like Glass, Craig Deaton, owner of United Transmissions, a locally owned transmission specialist in Burlington, has seen his business affected by the economy.

“For me, in some ways I think it’s helped my business,” Deaton said. “For the last 25 years because of cost, they [customers] would buy a new car. Now it appears that in some ways, people are fixing some of the older cars instead of buying a new one.”

While Deaton has made less of a profit as a whole than he had hoped for in recent months and still worries about the economy’s impact, his business remains busy with transmission work, he said.

However, Mark Bapst, owner of Meineke Car Care center in Burlington, says he can’t really see that his business has gained anything from the economy’s state.

“It’s true that it’s created work because people need fixing,” he said. “But there’s a problem with people having the income [to have things fixed].”

Joe Dixon, who has owned Dixon’s Transmission in Burlington for 34 years, has not seen an improvement in business either and feels as though it is slightly down.

The end of Christmas was the best he did all year, he said. Dixon made more than he thought at the end of the year, but business has been decreasing for him in recent weeks.

It’s the opposite story with Norris Automotive in Burlington.

“We’re seeing an increase as far as our work from previous years here,” owner Mike Norris said. “We’re seeing more profit due to people wanting to fix their cars instead of buying new ones.”

Norris Automotive has also given customers a 10-percent discount off their bill since before Christmas, an offer that will run until the end of January. Norris says this had also helped his business.



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