With new parts line, Chrysler dealers aim to service rivals' cars
DETROIT -- Higher vehicle quality and longer maintenance intervals have cut service business, so Chrysler Group dealers are stepping up efforts to court owners of other brands.
In April, Chrysler's Mopar Parts division and European parts giant Magneti Marelli -- both part of Fiat Group -- began a project to bring out a full line of premium parts for non-Chrysler Group vehicles, focusing on General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia products.
The project has now expanded to include 30 product lines and 3,000 part numbers, all labeled "Magneti Marelli offered by Mopar," said Dino Maggioni, Marelli's CEO for aftermarket parts and services.
The parts are packaged in yellow boxes with both the Magneti Marelli and Mopar brand names printed in blue, and are available through Mopar's worldwide distribution network.
It's the first time Mopar has offered a broad range of repair and maintenance parts that were made exclusively for vehicles from competing automakers. Mopar previously offered a very limited number of basic maintenance parts, such as oil filters and air filters, for competitors' vehicles.
Dino Maggioni says pricing on the new parts line will be “competitive with other premium auto parts, but not cheap.”
Less warranty work
Pietro Gorlier, Mopar's CEO of service, parts and customer care, said broadening Mopar's parts offerings to dealers is a way to acquire replacement service customers.
Warranty claims now account for less than 20 percent of Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealers' service business, Gorlier said, and service intervals on the automaker's newer vehicles have lengthened. Warranty work "is no longer a significant part" of service business for Chrysler Group dealers, he said.
Gorlier pointed to a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee as an example. The SUV has a recommended oil-change interval of 4,000 to 8,000 miles, longer than a 2010 Grand Cherokee's 3,000 to 6,000 miles.
"Dealers have fewer occasions now to make customers loyal because of the improvement of our products," he said.
Chrysler Group has been working with dealers since 2009 to improve customer satisfaction and increase service business. Gorlier has encouraged dealers to open Mopar-branded service centers separate from their dealerships, but his main priorities are getting more dealership service departments open on Saturday and getting more dealers to install Mopar's Express Lane oil change and maintenance facilities.
The percentage of Chrysler dealerships now offering Saturday service has grown to 77 percent, up from 60 percent in 2009, Gorlier said.
He has gone so far as to photograph people driving their Chrysler Group vehicles into competitors' service bays on Saturdays to prove to dealers that they can make money by opening up for a sixth day each week.
More Express Lanes
About one-third of Chrysler's 2,336 dealerships now operate Mopar's Express Lane service. Gorlier would like that number to be 80 percent by 2014.
Some dealers have balked at opening Express Lane operations because they say it is difficult to make money competing with the quick maintenance shops.
Maggioni said the opportunity for Marelli to broaden its aftermarket business in North America is too good to ignore. "The idea is to more than double the business in North America in a couple years," Maggioni said.
Marelli's prices will be "competitive with other premium auto parts, but not cheap," he said.
All of the aftermarket parts will be made in North America, Maggioni said.
Magneti Marelli, which was founded in 1919, ranks No. 24 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers, with worldwide parts sales to automakers of $6.8 billion in 2010.
Only 5 percent of the Milan, Italy company's sales were in North America in 2010, compared with 70 percent in Europe.
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