Published in Automotive News Nov. 3, 2014
On a clear day, you can see Pep Boys, Jiffy Lube and Firestone service shops from Planet Ford-Lincoln in Spring, Texas.
With all that nearby competition, why are dealer Randall Reed and his partner, General Manager Shawn Burns, spending $7 million to build a huge Quick Lane oil-change shop?
When Planet Ford-Lincoln's Quick Lane shop in the Houston suburb opens in December, it will be the largest Ford Motor Co. Quick Lane operation, with 28 lanes. That's right: 28 lanes.
While oil change intervals may be getting longer, Reed and Burns firmly believe fast oil changes can be the key to retaining service customers.
Reed and Burns believe they have a secret weapon in their battle against the nearby fast-lube shops: At the center of the Quick Lane operation will be a huge car wash capable of washing 1,000 vehicles per day.
"With the car wash we put in, our goal is too overachieve over Jiffy Lube and Walmart," Burns says.
Reed says: "We'll be offering something no other fast oil service does: a free car wash with your package. It's seamless to the consumer."
The new car wash will be branded Ford Rotunda for the Ford unit that sells auto service tools and equipment to dealers.
Burns believes the free car wash will help his store achieve something all dealerships struggle with: keeping customers in the service department after their warranties expire.
"We're hoping to get a pretty good jump in our customer loyalty scores," Burns says. "It's all about building a better relationship with customers. You don't make a lot of money on an oil change and tire rotation. But when they come back and it's time for brakes or tires or repair, you're the one they're going to call on. They won't defect to Sears or Walmart or Firestone."
Planet Ford-Lincoln offers one free oil change to customers who buy a new or used vehicle. About 50 percent of customers ignore the offer, Burns says. He believes the free car wash could bring that rate down to 20 percent or lower.
There's another reason Reed and Burns are optimistic about their new venture. Planet Ford-Lincoln, one of five Ford dealerships in Reed's World Class Automotive Group, is about two miles from the campus that energy conglomerate ExxonMobil, headquartered in suburban Dallas, is building on a 385-acre wooded lot.
The campus will house employees of several ExxonMobil units, including its chemicals business.
Says Burns: "Traffic count is being driven up. It's like a little city. There's a new skyline going up" on the campus, which will consist of multiple office buildings and a 100,000-square-foot fitness center. "You have as many as 15,000 new Exxon employees that are going to be two miles up the street."
All those new people mean potential growth for Planet Ford-Lincoln, which is investing about $30 million, including the Quick Lane shop, to adopt Ford's Trustmark design standards.
The timing of Planet Ford-Lincoln's showcase Quick Lane operation is auspicious. Ford is getting more aggressive with the Quick Lane brand.
In August, Ford said Quick Lane would be the title sponsor of a college football bowl game to debut Dec. 26 at Ford Field in Detroit. The Quick Lane Bowl will feature teams from the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast conferences.
Frederiek Toney, president of Ford's global customer service division, says the Quick Lane business has been growing steadily since Ford launched the brand in 1998. There are Quick Lane franchises at 720 U.S. dealerships today and the number should grow to 750 by year end, he says.
In addition, there are about 150 Quick Lane operations outside the United States.
"We're finding same store sales at Quick Lane stores grow at faster pace than non-Quick Lane stores," he says.
"We do expect the Quick Lane brand will continue to grow. We're growing about 60 stores this year. We'll add somewhere between 50 and 100 a year over the next three to four years."