Interview: How independent vehicle workshops are mastering the Corona crisis

30. Apr 2020 | Industry + More

Due to the corona crisis, the whole world is in a state of emergency. The automotive industry is being hit particularly hard in Germany. We asked ourselves how independent workshops are mastering the Corona crisis and what problems they are facing. The members of the Herth+Buss Workshop Advisory Board gave us an exciting insight into their companies and shared their tips and tricks with us.

When we founded the Herth+Buss Workshop Advisory Board in 2018, our aim was to understand workshops even better, identify problems and develop solutions together. Since then, we have been in close and regular contact with the five members of the advisory board.

  • Martin Kolmer runs a master workshop in Hüttenberg with a total of eleven employees.
  • Roland Riedelbauch specialises in liquefied petroleum gas conversions in his workshop based in Weißenstadt.
  • Sascha Hölzinger serves his customers in Wächtersbach with four employees and has significantly expanded his business over the past year.
  • Michael Kritter provides services for all brands as a Bosch Service Partner in Worms with his four employees.
  • Daniel Urban specialises in vehicle construction with his team.

In our interview, the five told us how they are tackling the crisis.

How hard have you been hit by the corona crisis to date? What problems are you facing?

» Michael Kritter:
We have lost 50 percent of our turnover and 50 percent of our customers. The people currently coming to us usually only want essential work done, such as tyres changed.

» Martin Kolmer:
We reduced our hours of work from 23/3 to 4/4. However, the work load was so high that we’ve been working full-time again since 6/4. We are currently not experiencing any issues as a result of the crisis.

» Daniel Urban:
In the first few weeks of the crisis, we saw a huge decline in sales in the passenger car segment. Private customers are still very cautious. Some orders were also put back, as vehicles were not delivered.

» Roland Riedelbach:
We have seen a decline in turnover in our bread and butter work, i.e. service, brakes, etc. Unfortunately, a few wholesalers have also had delivery problems.

» Sascha Hölzinger:
Our work is currently not restricted as a result of the corona crisis. Quite the reverse: presumably because many customers have more time due to working from home and reduced working hours and are therefore coming to our workshop. The good weather also seems to be working in our favour, as a lot of customers are currently coming to have their tyres changed.

Are customers staying loyal? And how important is communication with your customers?

» Sascha Hölzinger:
Our existing customers are staying loyal and we have not yet received any cancellations from customers who do not want to come for their appointment due to the current safety measures. We are currently also experiencing a rise in new customers, which could possibly be due to reduced working hours at other workshops, as we are open as usual.

» Daniel Urban:
Our customers are also staying loyal. We mainly communicate by phone or e-mail, sometimes via Facebook.

» Martin Kolmer:
We communicate via Whatsapp, text message and over the phone. The contact is outstanding. We can reach most of our customers extremely quickly due to the short working hours imposed at many industrial companies.

Have you taken special measures to attract customers to the workshop despite the corona crisis? Have you become creative?

» Roland Riedelbauch:
We work with a collect and return service for certain customer groups, elderly customers, for example. We also have a key box for vehicle hand-over. All information about the repair is communicated in advance over the phone.

» Martin Kolmer:
We have posted information on the current availability of our company on our Facebook page and on our website. We have also put out information signs on the road.

Do you have any general tips for dealing with the crisis as effectively as possible?

» Roland Riedelbauch:
Our motto: Keep calm, continue working sensibly and do not succumb to hysterics. Of course, it's very important to adhere to social distancing guidelines and to pay attention to hygiene. But in the workshop, you’re constantly washing your hands anyway.

» Martin Kolmer:
The important thing is not to let the situation get you down and to take advantage of the opportunities available: Switch the advertisement in the newspapers, use Facebook and the website for customer communication.

What safety measures have you taken to avoid possible infection? 

» Daniel Urban:
We are working with gloves more and disinfecting multiple times a day, on door handles etc. We have also fitted a perspex shield as a sneeze and cough guard in the customer area.

» Sascha Hölzinger:
Only one person at a time can currently enter the office and we are cleaning down surfaces with disinfectant.

» Roland Riedelbauch:
We are adhering to social distancing guidelines from customers, when handing over keys, for example, by working with a key box or carrying out hand-overs at a suitable distance. We disinfect surfaces such as steering wheels, handles etc. with brake cleaner, which we certainly have enough of. And, of course, we also impose social distancing requirements on employees. For example, everyone has their own coffee machine and hygiene items, such as hand towels, dispensers, etc.

What is the mood at your company?

» Sascha Hölzinger:
As we are lucky not to be affected by reduced working hours, the mood is generally very good and our work moral is also high.

» Martin Kolmer:
Great. We’re having a team barbecue, while maintaining an appropriate distance, of course.

» Roland Riedelbauch:
Everything is fine at our company. We are tackling the situation with gallows humor.

» Daniel Urban:
Good, as always.

We are delighted that it’s going well for our Workshop Advisory Board. Instead of burying their heads in the sand, everyone is making the best of the situation. Our vehicle experts are looking to the future with confidence. And the best thing is: The mood is still positive and everyone is healthy! 
We would like to wish our colleagues all the best, lots of customers and, above all, that they stay healthy.

You can help by continuing to support your independent workshops and stay healthy!