Business Finance Guide for Tire Dealers: The Power of KPIs

The Power of KPIs: Meaningful Ways to Measure Your Tire Shop’s Performance

Key performance indicators are critical numbers used in your automotive repair business and across our industry to tell the business owner about the health of their business. Learn how to calculate them for your business and how you can use the to help you better succeed in business.


Key Performance Indicators

As its name would imply, KPIs, or key performance indicators, are specific and critical numbers used in your automotive repair business and across our industry to tell the business owner about the health of their business. Many of these KPIs are actually generated during the sales process with your customer. The most important KPIs are generated during the estimating process. Other KPIs are managed differently, such as controlling operating expenses, having the correct compensation plans in place for all production personnel (technicians) and having the costs of your service writers (or service consultants) expressed differently. These numbers are more often expressed as a percentage against sales.

Why are KPIs Important?

Let’s look at perhaps the most important KPI of them all – Net Operating Profit, or NOP for short. Net profit derived from your business is the only reason for being in business in the first place. NOP is what’s left in your account after techs and service consultants as well as the rent, lights, gas, water and Autologic software updates have been paid and after federal and state income tax. Most shops, unfortunately, only walk away with single-digit net profit (less than 10%). However, NOP over 10%, and even approaching 20%, can be done. It is being done. These elite business owners already understand most of what we’ll be covering in this material.

What Do KPIs measure?

Each KPI measures its own corresponding performance. Let’s take an example of Labor Gross Profit Margin (GPM%). The criterion for this KPI is your shop labor rate, less the cost of your technician. There are two ways to look at this KPI, as loaded and unloaded costs.

  • Loaded Costs include all other real costs you, the business owner, incur. This could include FICA, FUTA, SUTA, Medicare, PTO (Paid Time Off), vacations, training allowances, uniforms, etc. The associated benchmark your shop is looking to hit is 60% GPM minimum.
  • Unloaded Costs are your shop labor rate less whatever hourly wage you actually pay the individual. This applies whether you pay a flat-rate, an hourly rate, a salary or some combination thereof. The associated benchmark your shop is looking to hit is 68-72% GPM.

Important Income Statement Benchmarks

What are benchmarks, anyway? Well, simply put, a benchmark (sometimes called a “metric”) is a number that is representative of what is normal, average or expected. Let me explain. Say you’re in the market for a high-performance sports car. You’re going to compare a Corvette Z06, a Porsche Carrera GT3, an Audi TT, a BMW 3-series and a Dodge Viper. Now, popular magazines write up an article comparing performance characteristics of all these awesome machines. They will most certainly compare things such as:

  • Zero to 60 MPH times (acceleration from dead stop)
  • 60 MPH to zero times (controlled braking times)
  • 100 MPH to zero (total stopping distance)
  • Slalom times through the cones to determine pitch (roll control and stability)
  • Quarter mile performance, which is the king of performance benchmarks
  • And usually, especially in this category, skid pad circles to measure lateral g-force.

What will come from these comparisons is a bunch of numbers. A person buying one of these performance automobiles will most certainly check out all these numbers to see how they stack up. He or she will look at the benchmarks to allow them to rank one to the other. Keep in mind that benchmarks for the performance car are going to be drastically different from the econo-box class of car.

You Can’t Make a Dime of Profit if You Don’t Have Sales

You’ll notice that we first take into account sales from several areas. These areas are also known as “profit centers,” which will be explained below. For simplicity’s sake, we aren’t breaking our sales down further than this. However, your own P&L should probably be more detailed. The more detail you can show, the better you’ll understand your business. Perhaps you have a popular line of tires that seems to be selling well, but upon further analysis, you discover you’re not really making any profit off of them. Of the thousands of financials I’ve reviewed for other garages, I still prefer to break mine down further. I normally get their P&L, and then transpose their numbers into my format. This way, I can get a gross profit margin on each of the critical areas, or profit centers, such as labor, parts and sublet and shop supplies.

MORE: Check out Tire Review’s November 2018 issue

Profit Center Analysis

Profit center analysis is nothing more than understanding that your business is made up of various areas from which you derive profit.

And you thought it was just from fixing cars?

No, there’s more to it than that. If you stop and think about it, other than the obvious profit you make on parts and labor, what else is there? Let’s take a look.

  • Parts
  • Labor
  • Sublet, such as towing, machine shop work, radiator repair, glass repair and anything else you farm out to another vendor;
  • Shop supplies, which can be a small profit center (At the very least, you should not be bearing the often huge expense of the assorted and sundry items your shop uses every day to effect repairs on customer cars.);
  • Hazardous materials charges are those which you incur as a result of having to comply with regulations governing the disposal of automotive wastes, such as oil, filters, tires and batteries.

As the saying goes, “if it can be measured, it can be managed.” Therefore, you should pay close attention to any significant source of revenue. This includes:

  • Tires;
  • Wheels;
  • Wheel accessories;
  • Alignment;
  • Air conditioning;
  • Emissions;
  • Diagnostics, check engine light;
  • Heavy engine or transmission;
  • Tune-ups;
  • And, most importantly, maintenance (PM).

Analysis of your profit centers, tied in with the seasonal and cyclical ups and downs typical in our industry, will allow you to have a solid tool for the purpose of forecasting and trend analysis. Simply put, it’ll allow you to navigate the “stormy weather” shops usually experience around November, December and January. Likewise, when you’re wide open in the spring and summer months, you’ll be more prepared because you took the time to understand your profit centers and used that information to develop your monthly or quarterly forecast. Let’s just hope your forecast is more accurate than the local weatherman.

Gross Sales

Beside the title “Gross Sales” on your income statement will be some number (hopefully a big one). What is that number made up of? Do you really know? Shouldn’t you know? I always ask shop owners “what percentage of maintenance work does your shop do?” Most of the time, I get the deer-in-the-headlights look. It should be apparent that your shop must have a strong computer and solid accounting and management software such as an R.O. Writer. What’s cool about good quality software is that you can slice and dice the numbers any way you can think of. Don’t get too carried away, but do find out where your profit centers are.

Gross Profit Leads To Net Profit

The ratio of sales profits against what it took to produce those sales yields a very important number – your Gross Profit Margin. I like to remember it this way:

Gross Profit Net Profit Formula

Operating Expenses

As shown on a standard income statement, all of your operating expenses are itemized in a standardized format. One thing I prefer to see to yield better measurement is to not insert your production technician’s labor costs into this area. If your shop provides benefits, in addition to standard payroll taxes, these can be listed within the operating expenses category. The total expense of production technician labor will be titled “Loaded Technician Costs,” meaning the total costs you’re bearing for that production technician. Because labor is generally about 50% of your overall sales, those costs should be carefully monitored. By the way, the bottom-line cost for a production technician, or loaded tech cost, includes everything that tech is costing you, including applicable taxes, insurance, uniforms, unemployment insurance, health benefits, vacations, holidays, training, etc.,

What’s Left Over = Your Net

The net profit is truly the bottom line. This is what you’ll have to carry over into next month, next year, and one day, retirement. Many businesses struggle to yield a net profit of only 5 or 6%. While there is some disagreement among management consultants, it is believed that 15% is a good minimum net profit. Important benchmarks for the automotive repair shop include:

  • A good production technician should produce somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $12,000 labor sales per month and bring in approximately $20,000 to $22,000 in gross sales per month.
  • Technician labor is NTE (not to exceed) 25% of the shop labor rate. Compute as: Tech salary x 1.25 (to adjust for taxes and such).
  • Total labor expenses NTE 25% of gross sales.
  • COGS (cost of goods sold) should max out at 25% of gross sales. If it’s more, than your prices are too low.

It’s about to be a New Year – How did your shop fare in 2018?
If you hope to hit your goals in 2019, then it’s imperative you have accurate numbers from 2018 to lay out your targets for the new year. A precursory understanding of the KPIs and their associated activities from which they are derived is therefore deemed essential. We’re going to take a look at a fictitious shop called Bob’s Garage. We’ll get into more about Bob in upcoming articles.



W. Scott Wheeler is founder and president of the Automotive Consultants Group Inc. He is a shop management expert with more than 36 years of experience in the automotive, trucking, heavy equipment, marine, motorsports and defense aerospace industries. He can be reached at [email protected] Look for Wheeler’s companion column on the profit myth of increasing sales in the January 2019 issue of Tire Review. 

You May Also Like

Consider Software Solutions to Streamline Operations

Representatives from several software providers share how solutions drive efficiency and profitability, as well as what to look for when considering a system in your shop.

When it comes to operating a successful tire dealership, software systems have become a necessity. Not only do they streamline the point-of-sale process and daily operations, but today’s software packages also offer solutions for customer communication, inventory, service writing and more.

We spoke with representatives from several software providers, who shared how these solutions drive efficiency and profitability, as well as what to look for when considering a system for your shop.

How Data, Analytics Can Boost Profitability for Tire Retailers

By collecting and analyzing data about a dealer’s sales history, inventory levels and market demand, data and analytics platforms can analyze the performance of each dealer’s store and recommend actionable improvement opportunities.

How to Start the PPP Loan Payback Process

For many PPP loan recipients, it is time to start the repayment process—or file for PPP loan forgiveness. Read on to find out which portion of your loan may be forgivable and how to apply for forgiveness, as well as how to start the repayment process.

Creating a Positive Work Environment

Larry Sutton of RNR Tire Express shares seven different practices that have helped him create a positive work environment.

Using Data to Enrich the Customer Experience

Attaching data or a number to a vehicle’s service record adds a level of transparency to the discussion, and moves it from an “opinionated upsell” to a true, fact-based service need.

Coats Tread Depth Data

Other Posts

AAPEX 2022: What Tire Dealers Can Expect [Audio]

It’s that time of year again—show time! With about a month and a half before the SEMA and AAPEX Shows, we’re gearing up to bring you live coverage from both…and give you a sneak peek at what to expect at the shows this year. Whether you’re busy planning your trip to Vegas for the biggest automotive aftermarket event

AAPEX 2022: What Tire Dealers Can Expect  

It’s that time of year again—show time! With about a month and a half before the SEMA and AAPEX Shows, we’re gearing up to bring you live coverage from both…and give you a sneak peek at what to expect at the shows this year. Whether you’re busy planning your trip to Vegas for the biggest

Katapult Partners with SimpleTire

Katapult has added SimpleTire to its network of merchant partners. The company says this partnership gives all SimpleTire customers a more flexible way to obtain replacement tires. Related Articles – Goodyear Announces Cost Savings Actions – Hankook Tire Signs Multi-Year Partnership with Lamborghini – Off-Road Racer Jim Horne Joins Team Hercules Katapult says it partners

consumer financing auto shop
Why Focusing on Your Best Customers Pays Off With Suburban Tire’s Gordon Leffler [Audio]

When you walk through the doors of Suburban Tire Auto Repair Centers in Glendale, Heights, Illinois, you’re walking into one of the cleanest and most organized tire dealerships on the east coast. “I could eat off the floors,” says Johnny g about the tire store this month’s guest has made into a superstore in the suburbs of Chicago. Related

Johnny g Friends Gordon Leffler Suburban Tire Auto repair centers