Auto dealerships must prepare to compete even more fiercely with independent repair shops for service work, says John Stamm, vice president of operations of Asbury Automotive Group. Stamm says the public dealership group is focused on keeping customers by giving them faster, more personalized service.
Asbury ranks No. 6 on Automotive News' list of the top 100 dealership groups in the United States with retail sales of 105,521 new vehicles in 2005. The New York company had $647.3 million in revenue from parts, service and collision work in 2005, up 12 percent from 2004.
Stamm, 49, discussed Asbury's fixed-operations business with Staff Reporter Gail Kachadourian.
What is the major challenge for your parts and service business this year?
Our main focus is always retaining more customers. We have to give them more reasons to come to us. We know whether they're a consistent customer, an active customer, a semi-active customer or an inactive customer. We try to market accordingly and offer them product offerings to keep them in our stores.
In the first couple of years, the customer is there for warranty work. The good customer-pay years don't fall in until years three, four and five. We work hard to keep that customer in the database for years one and two.
Does Asbury want to hire more service technicians?
We have an ongoing effort to hire as many (technicians) as possible. We're air conditioning many of our shops, especially in the South, to retain and (attract) new technicians.
We work with a lot of technical schools all over the country. We want to hire over 100 technicians this year.
Describe the interaction between service advisers and customers at your dealerships.
We want our service advisers to take care of customers from the time they come in to the time they pick up their car and pay their bill. We think it eliminates some of the customer satisfaction pitfalls.
In many of our stores, the service adviser takes (customers') money in their office. We've eliminated cashiers in many stores.
What changes in service and parts business do you foresee in the next three years?
Each manufacturer is extending the maintenance cycle. That's going to pose some challenges to us.
Every time they take a maintenance cycle to 10,000 or 15,000 miles, we're not seeing the customer as often as we used to when the interval was at 7,500. We're going to have to find other ways to contact the customer.
Customers' opportunities to deal with other places are going to increase.
Our competition is not other dealers. It's the independent repair shops. They're going to expand their product offerings, and we've got to be prepared.
Customers want things done now. They don't want to wait. We're going to have to find ways to accommodate that.
You may e-mail Gail Kachadourian at [email protected]