Following Mr. Goodwrench's retirement in November, General Motors Co. is counting on Certified Service to steer more service customers to its dealerships.
GM says the program, which began this month, represents a new business model, not just a marketing makeover. More than 90 percent of GM's 4,500 dealerships have signed on.
GM and its dealers are offering cheaper options on parts, stepping up advertising and broadening the use of service reminders through the OnStar telematics system to lure back customers who have been lost to quick lubes and other independent service shops.
Mark Reuss, GM's president of North America, said Certified Service is the centerpiece of the automaker's push to improve customer retention. GM historically measured success in its parts division by revenue growth -- driven mainly by price increases -- with little regard for keeping customers happy, he said.
"We're now totally driven by retention and price competitiveness on a service basis that allows our dealerships and our parts delivery to compete with anybody out there," Reuss said during a media roundtable at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco. "That's a revolution in terms of how we go to market in terms of service and parts."
Dwindling revenue from warranty repairs and the need to differentiate brands as quality gaps narrow are forcing automakers and dealers to focus on service and parts as a customer retention tool, said Joseph Lescota, chairman of automotive marketing at Northwood University in Midland, Mich.
"Years ago, if I sold a domestic, I was going to see that customer in the morning with a problem," Lescota said. "That's not true anymore. A dealership has got to make its money on customer service."
Certified Service ties together elements that have evolved over the past year. Most GM dealers now offer "good," "better" and "best" quality on brake pads and other parts in a bid to offer options that are cheaper than factory-supplied equipment.
GM has developed an annual schedule for national service and parts promotions. One campaign plugged a $79 brake job; another offered a special package for an oil change, tire rotation and 27-point inspection. GM also is matching competitors' tire prices.
The deals help battle the perception that dealerships' service departments are more expensive than independent shops and chains, said Steve Hill, GM North America's vice president of customer care and aftersales.
"We're going to have very aggressive price points," he said in an interview.
GM dealers also are reaching more customers via OnStar service reminders, an effort that began last year. Dealer notifications have increased the number of monthly leads generated through OnStar from fewer than 10,000 two years ago to about 100,000 today.
Dealer Chris Haydocy, whose Buick-GMC store in Columbus, Ohio, sold about 500 new vehicles last year, said GM's new approach is helping him better identify customers who weren't showing up at his store for service.
"We haven't had a good game plan to get clients back in," Haydocy said. "Now they're giving us more tools to get those people in here."