FORD AIMS AT INDEPENDENTS WITH SATELLITE SERVICE CENTERS

Ford Motor Co.'s first regular satellite service center is scheduled to open about Feb. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla. The centers are intended to compete with independent service shops and increase customer access to Ford service.

Mike Shad, owner of Mike Shad Ford, is putting the finishing touches on his Ford Auto Care. Ford hopes to open as many as 500 stand-alone service centers by 1998, and this is the first one financed and built by a dealer.

Three service centers opened under Ford's pilot program are already in operation.

Shad said his dealership will write about 25,000 repair orders this year.

In many instances, it can take two or three days to schedule a major repair and another two or three days to diagnose, obtain parts and complete the job.

Shad expects to service 50 to 60 vehicles a day at the auto care center.

'People don't come back to the dealership for a variety of reasons - some are real and some are perceived,' Shad said.

'With capacity constraints and such a concentration of present and potential customers, it's a natural to put the site in.'

Shad's new facility will have 12 service bays. The facility is located five miles south of his dealership and even farther from the nearest Ford dealership.

Ford paid for part of the pilot auto care centers, but the production centers are to be fully owned and financed by the dealer, said Tom Kubeshesky, Ford Auto Care project manager.

Ford launched its Ford Auto Care pilot program about 21/2 years ago after company research revealed that 70 percent of Ford vehicle owners do not return to the dealership for service after their warranties expire, Kubeshesky said.

Centers in Tucson, Ariz., and Naugatuck, Conn., opened in 1992 and are operated by individual dealers.

A site in San Antonio opened in March 1994. It is owned by seven Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers who wanted a presence in the downtown area.

The San Antonio dealerships are eight or more miles from the auto care center.

Kubeshesky said the pilot centers were designed to help dealers compete for out-of-warranty service business - which adds up to $150 billion a year on all makes.

'We were not interested in taking business from other Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers - we want to go after the independents,' Kubeshesky said.

The pilot program, he said, indicates Ford is accomplishing that goal:

60 to 70 percent of customers formerly went to independents.

70 to 80 percent of the work performed was on 1989 or older vehicles with more than 60,000 miles.

The Tucson facility was 'very profitable' in its first year; second-year profits were 'substantially' higher.

Kubeshesky said Ford hopes to open as many as 500 of the centers in the United States, and that new centers are likely to open soon in Clearwater, Fla., and Memphis, Tenn. He said Ford has about 50 dealer applications under consideration.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------FORD FIGHTS THE INDEPENDENTS

Ford Auto Care is Ford Motor Co.'s effort to help dealers compete with independent service shops and increase customer access to Ford service facilities. Here are highlights:

The primary goal is to serve owners of Ford and L-M vehicles.

The auto care center must be located within the owning dealer's market.

Repairs are limited to those that can be completed in four flat-rate hours or less.

Technicians are paid by the hour rather than by flat rate.

The centers are designed in 6-, 8-, 10- and 12-bay configurations.

Customers are welcome in the service area and are encouraged to talk to the technicians servicing their vehicles.

While outside signage reads 'Ford Auto Care,' dealers are allowed to put their names on interior signs.

You can reach Arlena Sawyers at asawyers@crain.com
Tags: Ford Service

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