BEST PRACTICES

With Sunday hours, there's no waiting to service cars

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Going to Sunday service is not about church for customers of Vista BMW Pompano in suburban Miami.

The man they'll see holding the book isn't a preacher with a Bible; he's a technician with a repair manual.

Many customers prefer the convenience of dropping off their cars on a Sunday for an oil change or other light maintenance, says Frank De Varona, the store's assistant service manager.

Vista BMW Pompano began offering Sunday service about 18 months ago.

"In the event they have a battery or a tire that needs to be replaced, we are here to do it, and they don't have to wait until Monday," De Varona says.

Many Sunday customers drop off their cars and pick them up before closing. The store's service department is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunday service at dealerships is a rarity in most of the United States, and many of those with Sunday hours cater to commercial vehicles that are on the job Monday through Saturday.

According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, just 7 percent of the nation's new-car dealers offered service on Sunday in 2012, the latest year for which data are available.

More than half of the dealerships with Sunday service hours are high-volume stores, delivering more than 1,900 units a year, NADA says.

Major repair work, such as engine rebuilds and clutch replacements, isn't offered on Sundays at Vista BMW Pompano.

Customers need an appointment at least a week in advance to get a Sunday slot.

The stores promote Sunday service hours on TV and with oil change coupons online.

"It is really starting to catch on, going pretty good," De Varona says .

Sunday service and parts hours were added, De Varona says, because some customers asked for them. "We said, let's try it out and see what happens."

The dealership has one technician and one service writer on duty, but more help could be added if demand grows.

De Varona says he has no problem finding technicians to work Sunday. Although they don't get paid extra, they get Saturday and Monday off.

The south Atlantic region of the country, according to NADA, has the most dealerships with Sunday service hours at 23 percent.

The central areas of the United States have almost no stores offering Sunday service.

"This is something we'll stick with," De Varona says. "The business is there."

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com.


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