NASHVILLE -- Nissan has begun providing free vehicle towing to customers who need collision repair.
The automaker is promoting its 1-800-NISSAN-1 phone number for tow-truck service and paying for tows in an effort to bring bodywork to participating shops within 50 miles of the customers.
In exchange for picking up the typical $50-$100 towing tab, Nissan believes that the brand and its affiliated repair shops will benefit.
The service aims to improve customer satisfaction with Nissan dealership service operations, bring more business to Nissan-affiliated body shops and sell more Nissan parts, says Mark Zoba, who is overseeing the campaign as Nissan North America's manager for collision parts.
"It's important to us that our dealers are the point of contact with customers," Zoba says. "When it comes to service or maintenance work, we want them to think of the dealer.
"But not all of our dealers have collision capability," he says. "So what often happens is that when an owner is in an accident, they just turn to their insurance company or their agent for a recommendation of where to go for collision work.
"We want to change that. If they call up to get the free tow, we'll get them to one of our certified shops where everybody is confident that the right work is getting done."
Nissan began offering the program in May with about 250 Nissan dealers and independent collision centers. The company expects to have 250 to 350 more shops certified for the program by the end of March, Zoba says. Eventually, Nissan plans to have a certified collision shop affiliated with each of the approximately 1,100 Nissan dealers.
Only a small number of Nissan franchises have dedicated body shops. So the company is embracing independent shops to represent Nissan in the program -- but only those formally recommended by a Nissan dealer who needs one.
Once a dealer recommends an independent for the program, the factory sends auditors to evaluate the center on 120 criteria, including facility condition, personnel, training levels and equipment.
Nissan's larger concern with independent shops is technical training. The factory requires participating shops to meet the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair's Gold Class training standard, or to at least be working to meet the standard. The conference is a third-party training service for the collision-repair industry.