Emulation is good, trust is better

Jan. 1, 2020
Reactionary thinking against dealers just won't cut it anymore.

Over the years, we have reported on all kinds of market niches and special profit centers that you should consider to boost your profits. However, the one we haven't recommended but that could truly make a difference in your business has been right under our noses. And you think we would have smelled it since it's been stinkin' up your business for such a long time. What could it be? What else but a car dealership? Just think of the immediate upside: you'd have license to start running loud and obnoxious radio and TV ads and making promises to people with no intention of fulfilling them.

Admittedly, my suggestion is a bit facetious, but only a bit. The dealership business is the missing link for you to secure more business, so adding it makes sense with one huge exception — the capital to start and run a dealership. So for most of you, we'll take that off the table. If you can't join them to beat them, the next best thing you can do is to start thinking like them. In fact, it is imperative for you to learn their business because they seem to be learning yours at a faster rate.

From the aftermarket ivory tower, we have convinced ourselves that the dealerships — no matter how hard they work to get more aftermarket business — do not have the bay capacity to handle all the work. The fact that Chrysler and others are hellbent on reducing their number of dealerships plays to our bravado.

But hold on. To rely on the dealerships' self-destruction is false security. First, trimming the fat won't be that easy for any OEM wanting to do so just from the sheer legal ramifications they would face. More to the point, though, is that reactionary thinking on our part just won't cut it anymore.

While we're wallowing in our debilitating procrastination, the OEMs continue to launch new, progressive customer-based programs. Automotive News recently provided another example of this: U.S. Autogroup, a five-dealership business in suburban Detroit, has introduced a new Web tool called "Is My Car Ready?" Consumers can simply go online and follow up-to-the-minute progression of their vehicle's repairs or maintenance. Moreover, they can order parts, schedule maintenance and pay for all of it right online. This isn't exactly news in the sense that this kind of thing is new. There are other programs like this around the country, some even more sophisticated, including Web cams in the service bay.

At this moment — and please, someone correct me if I'm mistaken — there are no similar aftermarket programs that rival what the dealers are doing. When we all know that consumers are busy and seek to save time, why isn't the aftermarket embracing similar programs? And please don't slough this off as your shop customers' problem. You're in this together.

Having led you to this point, I also need to point out that none of this may be necessary if your shop customers play up their unspoken advantage: trust. If they would consistently invite their customers to the service bay to show and explain what repairs or maintenance needs to be done, there's no software on earth that will trump that personal attention.