For most repair shops, calling customers can be a guessing game. Technicians have no way to see a vehicle's odometer or diagnostic codes until it comes rolling down the service lane, so an invitation to come in for service is a shot in the dark.
Motorcars Toyota in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, has embarked on an experiment to change that. Working with Zubie, a seller of a gadget that taps into a vehicle's OBD-II port, Motorcars Toyota is installing 500 of the devices for free in customers' vehicles -- with their permission, of course -- to remotely assess their service needs. Zubie devices usually retail for $100 apiece.
With profit margins on new-car sales so thin, and ever-improving quality cutting into repairs, the way dealerships make money is by cultivating loyal customers, Matt Gile, general manager of Motorcars Toyota, told Automotive News. He hopes data from Zubie devices will help the dealership deliver better service and boost retention rates.
"If a customer is on spring break with the kids and their check-engine light goes on, they won't have to worry that it's going to ruin their vacation," Gile said. "We'll be able to see it and give them some advice, to say, "You didn't tighten your gas cap right. Just make sure it's tight and you'll be ready to go.'"