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Mobile Tech Matches Mechanics to Drivers in Need

As with many other products and services, consumers increasingly expect to be able to arrange for automotive repair and maintenance through digital channels. 

When they’re in need of a certain service immediately, consumers often could use a hand finding the right shop. For example, if they need a wheel alignment on a Honda, they need a shop that both works on Hondas and has a wheel alignment machine. 

“What we’ve found over time, especially with COVID, is that more and more people are using the web to book services,” Rob Infantino, founder and CEO of Openbay, told PYMNTS. “Everything’s online now — you select, you book and you either show up or it gets delivered to your home. It’s the same thing with services as well; people are using the web to book services.” 

Matching Customers with Shops 

Openbay serves this demand with an automotive service marketplace and a subscription plan. Its business-to-consumer (B2C) eCommerce marketplace called Openbay allows consumers to find, book and pay for automotive service. Shoppers get upfront pricing and competitive estimates from shops that can do the service they are looking for. 

The company’s business-to-business (B2B) subscription plan called Openbay+ enables organizations to offer their employees, independent contractors or members access to shops and a 25% discount on the service. 

Looking for the right shop is what led Infantino to found Openbay in 2012. With a 2002 BMW M5, he was very particular about who serviced the vehicle, and at the time he couldn’t find an online source that would match him with a trustworthy shop that offered upfront pricing and online booking. 

Shops that participate in Openbay and Openbay+ do so to reach digital-first customers who they might otherwise miss, Infantino said. This saves them the cost of trying to acquire those customers themselves by advertising online. 

“In some cases, the shops have a challenge to acquire the digital customer — the Gen Z, the millennial or the person who uses digital to buy goods and services — because they’re not omnipresent, they’re not in all the places where people are digitally,” Infantino said. “That’s what our job is, really, to get in front of that customer who has a need for service.” 

Facilitating Payments 

Payments on Openbay are done with credit cards. Openbay takes the credit card information on the platform when the consumer is booking the service, puts a hold on the funds and then debits the credit card when the service is complete. 

Openbay takes out a transaction fee and a credit card processing fee and then pays the shop via automated clearing house (ACH) within 24 hours. 

For Openbay+, the partner organization pays a monthly subscription based on the number of vehicles that have access to the plan and its discounts. They either subsidize the membership on behalf of the customer’s vehicle or they pass the cost on to the customer. 

Organizations that subsidize the plan for their drivers do so as a benefit to the driver, just as an auto insurance company might offer discounted services such as roadside assistance to their policyholders. 

All the invoicing and payments for the subscription services happen on the platform. These payments are generally made via credit card or wire transfer. 

When drivers use Openbay+, they pay at the shop’s counter and there are more options for payments. The platform charges the shop a booking fee. 

Serving a Growing Need for Automotive Service 

Among the organizations offering Openbay+ are ones that rely on drivers who are independent contractors. The discounts provided to members are important to these drivers who are typically putting 50,000 miles a year on their vehicles. 

Also driving the demand for digital sources of information about shops and their upfront pricing are the rising prices of automotive service, insurance and gas as well as the increasing age of the vehicles on the road. 

“The average age for vehicles now is around 12 years old, and older cars need more work,” Infantino said. “This is a perfect platform for consumers who have older vehicles that need repair.” 

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