What happened to Pep Boys?
There was a time when The Pep Boys was on the minds of every 20-something that ever repaired his car or shopped for a new shift handle. Hard times has descended on auto parts stores in the past decade or so as the advanced automobile electronics has pushed most auto repair out of the hands of shade tree mechanics.
I remember when I decided to rebuild my first motorcycle. I bought a Clymer repair manual and then pulled the entire Honda engine apart in my parent’s basement.
It was not long after that when I was rebuilding my VW Bus engine and making frequent trips to Pep Boys for parts. Those days of mechanical experimentation seemed to have evaporated. Pep Boys has become just another tire store and a place to get some minor repairs completed. Even in its hey day, Pep Boys was for the hobbyist. Once you considered yourself capable, most shade tree mechanics made the shift to the local parts supply store where you could get rebuilt and reconditioned parts too. It felt like a right of passage.
Pep Boys purchased by Bridgestone.
So today, when I read the Pep Boys was bought by Bridgestone, it made me a little sad. That quirky brand with the goofy mascots seems destined to the brand junk pile. What a waste of brand equity.
Every brand hopes to differentiate itself from the competition and the three Marx Brother look-a-likes whose cartoon images graced the Pep Boys logo did exactly that. They were uniquely odd. And, if you will remember, Manny was everyone’s favorite.
It now moves into the reign of all nostalgia brands. Pep Boys has a place in the brand memories of time but were not able to redefine themselves in terms of meaning through the changes the venerable brand witnessed. Now Bridgestone will try to turn lead into gold and revitalize the brand locations with a connection to a tire brand. Good luck with that.
If anyone asked me, and no one has, I would change the entire chain to Pep Boys and redefine the meaning beyond just tires and parts. (Read how to steal market share here.) Today, everyone holds the car dealerships as the gold standard of car repair. We also see them as ridiculously expensive. There should be an alternative to the crazy overhead cost we support with dealership repairs and the tire warehouses that dominate the scene today. Pep Boys could be that. Bridgestone is just a tire store.