Promoting service plans online makes sense

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News
Is it me, or are more dealers promoting extended service plans online?

A few vendors tell me the latest trend is to put testimonials from customers who bought service plans up on the dealership Web site. And there are dealers selling the benefits of a service plan right alongside the features of their new vehicles.

The Ferrario Auto Team, a group of four domestic-brand dealerships in New York and Pennsylvania, promotes its private-label prepaid maintenance programs as one of five reasons to “buy at Ferrario” right on its home page.

The Bernardi Auto Group, a Massachusetts group of import dealerships, has a “Service Contracts” link on its home page that leads to another Web site for Bernardi Service Contracts -- The service contract site touts “manufacturer-backed service contracts” that “eliminate high repair costs.”

Vaden Automotive, of Savannah, Ga., not only has a Web site,, but an instant quote service and a toll-free phone line. To get an online quote, visitors enter the year, make, and model of their vehicle, as well as their state of residence.

It all makes plenty of sense -- especially the testimonials. Dealers who promote the plans online set up the sale before the customer even reaches the showroom. Consumers browse the Internet for new and used vehicles, so why not service contracts?