The automotive aftermarket is facing dealership competition on yet another front: car care awareness.
The industry has long prided itself on its Be Car Care Aware campaign and the attendant National Car Care Month every April. In late March, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) distributed its own list of vehicle maintenance tips along with an explicit suggestion to take vehicles to “your local automotive dealer.”
With advice on such activities as maintaining proper tire pressure, checking fluids and giving a cursory once-over to the engine, the tip sheet, published by website NADAguides.com, suggests taking the list to an accredited dealership for more sophisticated automotive maintenance and repair.
NADA officials couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.
Though NADA may benefit the driving public by encouraging vehicle maintenance, this dealer-focused campaign may present a double-edged sword for the aftermarket.
Rich White, vice president of marketing and communications for the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), indicated in an e-mail to Aftermarket Business that AAIA “will have to keep our eye on NADA’s messaging because the dealers and the OEs are notorious for perpetuating the misperception that consumers need to return to the dealership for service in order to maintain the warranty.”
White refers to a recent Consumer Reports article that he says clarifies his point. Published alongside the magazine’s annual new car ratings issue, the article points out that consumers have the right to take their vehicles wherever they like without affecting the warranty, according to an AAIA release, which quotes the story as stating, “For maintenance, there’s no reason you must rely on a dealership, which might charge more than an independent shop.”
Dealerships have often been accused of telling drivers that independent service somehow voids a vehicle’s warranty. Shop owners also say dealers often boast that their technicians have more access to diagnostic information than independent technicians and that OE parts are the only appropriate replacement.
Adds White: “Perhaps the Be Car Care Aware consumer education campaign will consider taking a more pro-independent service provider approach depending on where NADA goes with their consumer outreach messages.”
NADA, the publisher of appraisal guides that offer vehicle valuations for a range of cars and trucks, named its maintenance list “Road Trip Tips”; the Be Car Care Aware website features a section titled “Road Trip Prep” that offers fuel saving tips, information on wipers, lighting and servicing an A/C system, as well as a quiz that gauges a driver’s automotive maintenance knowledge.
Other groups such as the Automotive Service Association (ASA) and AAA send out press releases encouraging proper vehicle maintenance, notes White.
None of these groups, however, directly endorse the dealerships for repair and service. The ASA, for example, publishes car care tips on its website with a link to www.carcare.org, the home of the National Car Care Council’s aforementioned “Be Car Care Aware” campaign. The Car Care website attracted more than 1 million visitors last year, according to the Car Care Council.
ASA declined to comment on the NADA release.
AAA endorses AAA-approved automotive repair facilities on its website but also publishes tips on taking vehicles to both independents and dealerships for repairs.