Sears launches free-standing pilot DieHard Auto Center
Sears opened a full-service auto care center in San Antonio last week in a pilot store called DieHard Auto Center Driven by Sears.
The auto center will provide oil changes, tire replacement and vehicle repairs and assessments, posing another competitive threat to local auto dealers’ service departments.
It will also provide the following:
- DieHard 360° Vehicle Assessment: A 120-point vehicle inspection for complete condition assessment.
- DieHard Edge Maintenance Plans: Discounted, prepaid vehicle maintenance plans for 36 months or 45,000 miles of coverage.
- Digital Tire Journey: IBM Watson Natural Language Classifier application that helps customers find the correct tire size for their driving preferences, such as safety, performance or off-road.
The auto center will be open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., a Sears press release said.
Unlike Sears Auto Centers, the DieHard Auto Center is not attached to a Sears department store. Sears stores continue to struggle. In January, Sears closed 26 retail stores, including 20 Sears Auto Center locations, Automotive News affiliate Tire Business reported.
In fact, the new DieHard Auto Center location in San Antonio was chosen because a nearby Sears Auto Center closed, offering up a good employee base and knowledge of a solid shopping demographic, said Brian Kaner, president of Sears Automotive.
Kaner said the DieHard brand, which sells automotive parts such as vehicle batteries and tires, is a popular and trusted brand among consumers. The auto center will create an additional opportunity to showcase DieHard products.
Kaner said Sears hopes to leverage the DieHard name and quality to boost interest in the auto center.
“The next step in our evolution was really to pilot an auto center to see if we’d get the same type of market acceptance [as DieHard products], so we opened up the San Antonio auto center,” Kaner told Automotive News.
He said Sears has no current plans for expansion or a set timeline to do so, but he will look at market acceptance, or if the auto center is satisfying a large number of consumers, as a key indicator of success for the pilot program.
“I want to make sure my underling hypothesis is correct, that the brand is very powerful. And this is really the true test of how powerful it is,” Kaner said. “We’ll gauge that on customer traffic and where we expect it to be.”
Sears has been under the control of longtime Wall Street investor Edward Lampert since he acquired it in 2005 and combined the retailer with struggling Kmart Corp.
In recent months, according to Bloomberg, Lampert has been propping up Sears with a $500 million loan and two letters of credit worth another $500 million. Sears also is selling its Craftsman tools brand for $900 million.
Lampert, meanwhile, has been a shareholder for many years in the largest U.S. auto dealership group, AutoNation Inc. Back in 2010, Lampert owned 55 percent of AutoNation, but has since shed much of his stake.
Lampert’s SEC filing on Jan. 30 said he and his entities owned 16.4 million shares of AutoNation’s stock, about 100.9 million shares of which are outstanding. That gives Lampert a 16.3 percent stake in AutoNation.
A Sears Auto Center spokesman said any competition between the DieHard Auto Center and a dealership service department already existed with the nearly 600 Sears Auto Center stores across the U.S.
The spokesman also emphasized the auto center is still in the pilot stage and there is no plan yet to expand.
An AutoNation spokesman said it was the company’s policy not to comment on its shareholders.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.