For app users, the OBD-II device provides a bonus, according to Dorfman. "When the plug is in the port, it's reading the customer's vehicle when it's being driven and driving responses to the app that are also communicated to the dealership," he said. "We close the loop between the customer, their car and their dealership."
For example, he said, "the car can communicate to the customer [through the app] when they're due for service, and we can have the dealer get the same response to give a discount for that service right at that time. The OBD adds a dimension that gives the customer more confidence, more believability."
Dorfman said a service alert directly from the vehicle is more effective than a message from a dealership.
The OBD-II port is a battleground for the likes of AT&T and Verizon Wireless. AT&T's diagnostic service offering is called Audiovox Car Connection 2.0, while Verizon has a similar app called hum.
It would behoove dealers to try to win access to customers' OBD-II ports to engage them on a long-term basis and keep them from turning to independent shops for routine maintenance, Dorfman said.
The OBD tool's ability to track vehicle mileage and maintenance is attractive to business owners, too. One dealership sold six of the plug-in devices to a customer who was introduced to the tool when buying his own car but decided the devices would be useful for all of his business vehicles.
Dealerships can give the OBD-II device to customers for free after a vehicle purchase as a "why buy here" inducement or offer it to them in the F&I office. Some dealers have been charging between $99 and $149 for the device, an EasyCare spokeswoman said.
EasyCare says one effective approach for dealerships is to have sales staffers set up a soft introduction of the app and OBD tool to customers and then let F&I managers follow-up during the finance process. The company suggests that salespeople plug the OBD device into a vehicle before a test drive, show the customer the vehicle's health scan after the drive, then move on to another topic.
Later, the F&I manager, after introducing the customer to the store's service and maintenance plans and other add-on products, reminds customers of the ability to run health scans and manage their maintenance even more closely with the OBD device connected. Whether the device is purchased or not, the customer is instructed to download the app and use it to schedule the first service appointment.