In China, Calls for Less Repair Shops


BEIJING – Chinas fragmented auto repair sector will see brutal consolidation in the next three years, and that will affect suppliers of all auto parts, including lubricant marketers, industry insiders said at a conference here in April.

According to Chinas Ministry of Transport, the country has over 600,000 registered repair shops, but most of them are located in big cities, causing great inconvenience for car owners in small cities, said Sun Yeyao, secretary general of the auto repair unit at the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

For example, he said in an address at Enmores China Lubricant Market Focus, a car owner in Luotian, a county in Hubei province, will have to drive to Wuhan, the capital of the province, to get lubes or other services for his car in a registered repair shop.

And lets not to forget the fact that its the small cities that made the biggest contribution to Chinas auto sales growth, Sun said.

The number of new vehicle sales in China grew 3 percent in 2017, the smallest increase during the past five years. Sales in big cities actually fell, but that was more than offset by increases in small cities, according to CAAM.

Within a few years, Sun said, the map for registered repair shops should become more evenly spread, possibly led by large chain shops.

Luo Jiansheng, director of supply chain at Harsons, a Guangzhou-based repair chain for premium cars such as Audi and BMW, agreed with Sun. He foresaw there will be only 250,000 repair shops in China by 2025, among which will be repair shops appointed by automakers, specialty repair shops such as those for modified vehicles, and large chains of shops.

Even some lube distributors would enter the repair sector as the [lubes] business actually is facing risks, Luo said. He added that some lube blenders already skip distributors to supply repair shops directly.

For example, ExxonMobil is supplying the auto unit of Chinas major e-commerce site, and Chexiang, a repair platform owned by the state-owned automaker SAIT Motor, offers oils that are co-branded with CNPC and Shell.

Zhang Chenhui, a consultant, also urged consolidation. He said the current fragmented sector could even cause headaches for big lubricants names.

Lots of Chinese car owners, especially in small cities, rely on repair shops to choose the right oil for them, he said. In these areas, big names are not necessarily favored by local repair shops. The reason, he added, is that the profits for selling big lube brands are usually lower than small, local brands, which tend to have an opaque pricing strategy.

But in big cities, where car owners have more exposure to brands, multinational brands still dominate the local market.

Shanghai is a typical example.

Our customers usually like to choose Shell or Castrol oils for their cars, said Li Shun, a manager at Che Jie, a chain repair shop in Xinzhuang, a suburb in southwest Shanghai. The shop is a dealer for Shell, Castrol and SK oils, but Li said even SK is not a favorite brand among its customers because it is not a well-known brand in China.

Li said some Chinese local blenders contacted him for a possible partnership, but he eventually turned down all of them.

It takes some time to tell if a lube is good or not. We decided to stay with well-known foreign brands because we dont want to see complaints on lubes from our customers in a year or two, he said.

Mechanir repairs motorcycle in China.

Photo: ImageegamI/iStock

Related Topics

Finished Lubricants