App lets drivers find mechanics, then solicit bids

When his mother told him she’d spent days of driving and in person visits trying to diagnose a problem with her car and set up a repair appointment, the founder of ObiiGO decided there had to be a simpler solution.

John Harmon developed an application to connect consumers with repair shops through which potential customers can solicit bids for repair jobs by using their smart phone. Armed with diagnostic codes or by asking for simple services, like an oil change or a brake job, users of the ObiiGO app can seek out the most competitive prices available through the app and participating independent repair shops can snag extra business and be more competitive.

Harmon, who is from Texas, has a background in finance. He worked out the app in Fayetteville while spending time with family. The venture is based in Fayetteville and is currently funded by Harmon along with family and friends without additional venture capital.

The app can be found on the ObiiGO website, the Apple App Store, and is expected to be available for Android users in February.

The platform, Harmon said, also allows customers to pay through the app, streamlining billing for shops and cutting card charges. App users and the repair shops both pay fees on transactions made through the app.

Harmon likens the ObiiGO app to a combination of Yelp, Google and EBay for the auto repair industry and said in a recent interview that it is now in its beta testing and initial roll-out phase in Northwest Arkansas, Houston and Phoenix. He said the app is drawing interest from repair shops in places the company isn’t targeting yet, including a major brake chain in Michigan, citing traction from coverage in a trade magazine.

Harmon said the app allows consumers to find the best prices and have a transparent experience with repair shops who want their business. For independent repair shops, the app allows them to bid on the jobs they want, find new customers and fill dead spots in the day’s shop schedule with jobs that bring in revenue and compete against auto dealership repair operations.

Market research group Ibis World estimates the U.S. auto mechanics industry’s market size by revenue will be $66.7 billion in 2021, a 5.8% increase after the segment saw an average market size decline of 0.2% a year between 2016 and 2021. According to a September report from statistics portal Statista, in the first quarter of 2020 there were about 233,400 auto repair and maintenance shops in the U.S., up 1.7% from a year ago. In July, IHS Market reported the average car on the road was 11.9 years old.

Kent Atkins, owner of The Greased Pig Tune and Lube shops in Fayetteville, is taking part in the ObiiGO roll-out. He said the app allows the shop flexibility and a way to fill in open spots when customers cancel appointments at the last minute.

He said that the app will allow the 20-year-old business to reach new customers in the Fayetteville area, such as students or young professionals, who have just moved to the area, allowing him compete with national chains.

“It’ also gives the opportunity to customers to see that our prices are fair,” Atkins said.

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