General Motors is overhauling its parts program, incentivizing dealerships to beef up their inventory for more same-day repairs and to buy more of those parts directly from the factory.
GM bills the program, which was rolled out April 1, as a major push to keep service customers happy. The automaker's 4,400 dealerships can earn bonus money if they stock the parts GM recommends and if they buy those parts from the automaker rather than from AC Delco wholesale distributors.
But some dealers complain that they are sinking thousands of dollars into extra parts to meet GM's voluntary program, in some cases buying parts that they say won't move as quickly as GM believes, needlessly tying up cash.
Some dealers also say GM's incentive payments won't be enough to offset the higher cost of buying more parts from GM and fewer from wholesalers, which typically sell at a 10 to 20 percent discount from the factory's price.
The cool reception by some dealers shows how automakers and retailers often share the same objective -- in this case speedier service that enhances customer satisfaction -- but disagree on how to arrive at it.
Some dealers even question GM's chief rationale for the new system: that it will improve same-day service rates.
They say it could crimp their flexibility to scrounge needed parts on the fly from local distributors or other dealerships because doing so would hurt their chances to earn bonus cash.
"These aren't parts that were hard to come by anyway. If we needed a brake pad or a water pump, we'd always run out and get one," says a parts manager for a midsized Buick-GMC-Cadillac dealership who requested anonymity. "That's our goal, too: Get people fixed and on their way."
Steve Hill, vice president of customer care and aftersales for GM North America, says the program will be "financially attractive for the average GM dealer."
He acknowledges some trepidation among dealers, but he says many who have studied it see the advantages for their bottom lines and for retaining service customers.
Hill says the combination of offering in-and-out service and more original-equipment parts will help differentiate GM dealerships from independent mechanics.
"If you know you're getting a trained technician and O.E. parts and you can get in and out in the same day, that's a huge advantage," he says.
Similar to the approach GM has taken with its ongoing facility-renovation program, it wants uniformity in parts and service. Some dealerships have high same-day service rates, but many don't, says Tim Turvey, executive director of customer care and aftersales.
"We wanted to have more of a McDonald's approach to make sure we have a certain core group of parts available to the consumer to fix their vehicle right then," Turvey says.