DETROIT -- General Motors has retreated from a controversial policy that required dealership service technicians to essentially punch a time clock for every repair order.
GM in the spring began enforcing a previously ignored rule that required dealers to report their service techs' hours for not only warranty repairs, but customer-pay work and repairs to vehicles in dealers' own fleets.
GM characterized the policy as a way for dealers to track their techs' productivity and for the automaker to keep closer tabs on its warranty expenses.
But dealers cried foul, complaining that the rules sapped productivity and left them more susceptible to costly charges if GM auditors found errors or omissions on their service techs' time sheets.
"It was a huge administrative burden. Dealers were pretty much in an uproar," said Richard Gonzales, service director at Vera Motors in Pembroke Pines, Fla., which sells Cadillac, Buick and GMC. Requiring technicians to log in and out for each of the sometimes dozens of jobs they work on every day was too time consuming, Gonzales said.
And a related rule that prohibited techs from working on more than one job at a time also was problematic, dealership service directors say. Mechanics routinely work on multiple repairs at once. For example, a tech might start a software reset that could take 45 minutes to download, then move on to an oil change or another job.
On July 1, GM revised the rules to require service techs to log only their hours worked on warranty jobs. Dealers say many other automakers have a similar policy for documenting labor times for warranty work.
Tim Turvey, GM's vice president of North American customer care and aftersales, acknowledged the dealer backlash to the rule, including the concerns about an increased risk of audit-related charges for flawed time sheets.
He said the risk of the policy being used against dealers on audits led to "a tremendous amount of angst at our dealerships."
GM also rolled back the policy prohibiting service techs from working on more than one vehicle at a time, acknowledging that a good mechanic "can be productive and efficient" working multiple repairs, Turvey said.
"We made some pretty significant changes that we think reduce the overall administrative burden on the dealer," Turvey said. "And this still allows us to make sure there are proper checks and balances on utilization and spending of warranty money."
Todd McCallum, fixed-operations director at LaFontaine Automotive Group, which sells Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC vehicles at three stores in the Detroit area, said the requirement to track even customer-pay jobs was a head scratcher.
"On warranty work, we get it. If GM is paying the bill, they should see how long it took the tech to work on that car. But having to track their time on retail transactions just slowed us down," McCallum said.
He added: "We are big fans of the rule change."
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