Adding weekend service hours is smart business

Chrysler is smart to be pushing for expanded Saturday service department hours at its dealerships. Chrysler's Mopar CEO Pietro Gorlier says Sunday hours are the next step.

With the hectic pace of modern family life, the weekends are often the only time I get a chance to take my vehicle in for routine maintenance. When your dealership service department isn't open, it's all too easy to go somewhere else for that oil change. The danger for dealerships is that its customers might keep on going elsewhere when they have bigger repair jobs, too.

Anything dealerships can do to keep profitable customer-paid work in-house will be worth it. A long-term decline in warranty revenue and the shrinking number of vehicles in service means customer-paid work is more important than ever to the bottom line. Strong service revenue shored up many a dealership during the sales crash of the last couple of years.

That said, I am certainly sympathetic to the pressure that expanded hours put on service department employees. Dealers must manage staffing needs carefully.

So far this year, Chrysler has seen the percentage of dealership service departments open on Saturday jump from 60 percent to 69 percent, my colleague Brad Wernle reported recently.

And with the Sunday ambitions, Chrysler will keep pushing. Mopar's Gorlier told Wernle he had even spotted quick lube shops open on Thanksgiving, and called it his nightmare. Seeing competitors open and knowing he can't match the service is “making me sick,” he said.

I see his point -- but it may be smarter business to give your employees a break on the biggest holidays.