Metro DetroitSeptember 25, 2013
Drivers opt to update older cars
By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer
Between work and weekends, dance class and soccer practice, many of us spend more time in our cars than we do in our own homes. It stands to reason, then, that vehicle upkeep and improvements are a major priority for on-the-move families.
Mark Sykes, of Showcase Collision in Warren, stays in business keeping people’s cars in tip-top shape. Just a few years ago, business was booming in the sluggish economy, since most drivers didn’t have the extra cash to go out and buy a new car. Instead, they were making smaller investments in the cars they already owned.
“We still have those people. People still aren’t gainfully employed the way they used to be, so they’re not buying or leasing cars because they don’t want the payment,” said Sykes. “They’ll spend a couple hundred dollars here and there to get their brakes or shocks done to keep it safe on the road.”
Car maintenance is important for every driver, not only for safety but also to stretch the life of the car. That’s especially true at Showcase Collision, which Sykes said sits in somewhat older community. Senior drivers, he said, are even more likely to put money into the car they already have instead of buying a new one.
But that doesn’t mean the road will be forever packed with vintage vehicles. Sykes said that, several years after the global recession of 2009, the car market is finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and automakers are responding with reduced prices. So, will that cut into the repair business? Not likely.
“We’re definitely seeing the lease rates start to drop. They’re making cars more affordable again, which they got away from for three-five years,” he said. “But then, at the end of that lease, every two-three years, you’ve got to turn it in. You have to come in to fix all the dings and scratches you put on it so you can turn it in.”
But there’s more to a car than what’s under the hood. In Pontiac, the store Radios, Knobs, Speakers and Things has been in the business of “cool” since 1975. RKST is known for stocking the hottest and most advanced car accessories, from stereos and speakers to LED headlights, window tint and more.
Head technician at RKST Joe Landry said most customers these days are looking to update their ride to keep up with the gadgets they use every day.
“A lot of people are wanting to integrate their new technology, like iPods and Bluetooth phones,” said Landry. “Some portion of it is just replacing defective equipment — speakers go bad after awhile and CD players stop working. But most car audio is people who want to plug their iPod into the car without spending too much.”
Stereos with touch-screens, specialized speaker systems, navigation and monitors are always popular choices with drivers who want to show off a bit. But, more than anything, Landry said customers are clamoring for remote starters to get through those chilly Michigan winters, and radios that can wirelessly connect to their mobile phones.
“The Bluetooth integrates smartphones, so that’s going to give you Pandora in the car, iHeartRadio and traffic updates — things that make the drive a little more pleasurable.”
Landry admits that a lot of the equipment he installs is becoming increasingly available in newer model cars. He said that backup cameras and sensors might be a new technology for some, but they’ll likely be standard features in new cars made in the next couple of years.
But, as time has shown, there’s always a newer and flashier gadget making its way to the market — and when it does, Landry will be able to install it.
“It all depends on what technology comes out next,” he said.