The Briarpatch was a network of small businesses that I helped create in the 1970's among the hippy entrepreneurs that radically re-shaped the nature of our modern world.
I can mention just one of the many success: the modern bicycle revolution that grew directly out of the hippy mountain bikes. But this blog is about one of the many hippy failures.
In San Francisco and on the Peninsula we had three auto co-ops. In the East Bay we had a tool borrowing business specifically for auto repairs. They all failed.
It turns out there are two problems with auto co-ops that no one could cope with.
The first is that auto mechanics are highly skilled people who move perpetually. They can find a job anywhere and they do. The consequence is that unless an auto repair business is extremely well run with great incentives to stay at that single auto repair business, the mechanics will flow through like a river. The management of the co-ops never knew how good a mechanic was until months later when the customers brought the car back with the same problem or a new related problem caused by the mechanic who is long gone.
The second problem was even more difficult to deal with. Most people have a deep emotional relationship with their car. If they think there is a noise in their wonderful little car or that something isn't working the way it did before they are perplexed and anxious. There is very little that a mechanic can do other than repair something that is actually broken.
The way most auto repair shops deal with this emotionality associated with cars is to dedicate a group of frontline customer-relations-experts to deal with customers. These frontline auto repair customer relations experts are really salesman or psychotherapists. Their job is to make the customer feel good about whatever is bothering them and to protect the mechanics from the hysteria that the customers carry with them concerning their precious car.
Co-ops always found it hard to keep customer relations experts happy. The customer relations people either demanded a great deal more money than seemed justified to the rest of the mechanics or they were so important to the survival of the business that they became the owners or top managers. Again something difficult to create in a co-op environment.
That's why we don't have auto repair co-ops, today.
(Here is an article about the Palo Alto Auto Repair Coop.)