Think of it as the auto dealership version of a frequent-flier program.
Republic Industries Inc. last week began a perk-driven effort to lure customers to its AutoNation USA stores in Denver. Under the program, called AutoRewards, customers accrue points toward discounts on service and rental cars. They also can earn up to a $500 rebate on a new or used vehicle.
AutoRewards is part of a campaign to promote the AutoNation USA brand at Republic's 18 new-car dealerships in the Denver area. Eventually, the program will spread nationally.
'We want to demonstrate to customers that we can bring them a lot of benefits because of our size,' said Maria Bailey, director of administration for AutoRewards. 'Our goal has always been to build customers for life.'
The program later will add discounts on such things as gasoline and collision repairs. Republic, the nation's largest dealership chain, also intends to offer an Auto-Rewards credit card. It will allow customers to accumulate points for each dollar spent - just like the credit cards that allow cardholders to earn frequent-flier miles.
Membership in AutoRewards is free to customers who purchase a new or used vehicle from an AutoNation USA store. Republic also is offering free membership to all customers who purchased or leased a vehicle from one of its Denver dealerships in the past two years. Others can pay a one-time fee of $50 to join.
In addition to discounts, Auto-Rewards provides a year of free roadside assistance, membership in the National or Alamo car rental clubs (which normally costs $50 a year), guarantees for fast service (or the service is free), free shuttles for service customers and a 12,000-mile/12-month warranty on used cars bought from AutoNation USA. There are three levels of rewards:
AutoSelect, for customers with 2,500 to 7,499 points;
AutoPlus, 7,500 to 9,999 points;
AutoElite, 10,000 or more points.
The higher levels get priority treatment in the service department and invitations to exclusive events, such as breakfast with John Elway, the Denver Bronco quarterback and auto dealer who was bought out by Republic. His name is on all 18 AutoNation USA stores in Denver.
AutoElite members also receive a free loaner vehicle if their car breaks down, and free enrollment at AutoPlus level for two other vehicles in the household.
The point system will reward members for using AutoNation USA. For example, 2,500 points are granted for buying a vehicle; 1,500 for trading one in; and 1,250 for using AutoNation USA for repairs. A bonus program will double many of the points granted in the first year.
As part of the introductory offer, customers can earn 15,000 points if they buy a car at an AutoNation USA store and send two referrals that result in sales, Bailey said.
Frequency Marketing Inc. of Cincinnati will administer the AutoRewards program.