Dealers aim to turn scents into dollars

bwilliams@crain.com

Does that new-car dealership smell attract service customers? Air Aroma America Inc. and its dealer customers are betting it can.

Air Aroma, of Miami, markets Aroscent, a portable diffuser the size of a briefcase that dispenses scents such as orange, pine, peppermint and leather. Dealerships install the misting devices in service bays to mask less-pleasant odors and, company executives say, to help stressed-out customers relax.

“We enhance the whole environment and try to create a sensory effect,” says Spence Levy, Air Aroma America vice president.

Dealerships also use the device in showrooms. Levy says company data suggest that customers stay longer on sales floors that smell better.

Air Aroma says about 20 dealerships in the United States use its products. The company charges dealers $185 a month, on average, for the Aroscent system.

The service has the endorsement of General Motors' Service and Parts Operation, which recommends Aroscent to GM dealerships as part of its Goodwrench marketing initiative. The contract with Air Aroma allows GM dealers to rent the system for $130 a month.

“Some of our older dealerships may have oil, grease and things in the service lane,” says Gordon Barnes, Goodwrench brand manager. “We want people to come back to our service lanes. By retaining those additional customers, it is likely we will be able to sell them vehicles down the road.”

Levy says his company worked with GM to identify scents that would especially appeal to the Goodwrench target demographic: middle-aged men. The Goodwrench scent is a customized blend of citrus and leather, he says.

Last month, Al Serra Chevrolet, near Flint, Mich., installed Aroscent in its service area and customer lounge. Jason Freeman, the dealership's service manager, said employees and customers have given the Goodwrench scent rave reviews.

The dealership also plans to include the scent in mailings to service customers. Air Aroma turns the oils in the scenting devices into an inklike substance that can be applied to mailings.

“The concept is to create a sense of awareness for customers so they feel comfortable when they make their purchases,” Freeman told Automotive News.

It's too early to tell whether the aroma system is boosting service department revenues, Freeman said. But he added: “We are excited for the coming months.” c

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