If new-vehicle sales have peaked and are leveling off, as many industry analysts believe, the pressure to generate profits from fixed operations is likely to increase.
But given the U.S. industry's seven straight years of year-over-year sales growth, the future holds great potential for your shop to boost the number of repair tickets you write, as cars age and maintenance needs increase.
Most seasoned service managers, I'd bet, instinctively know what it takes to attract and retain customers and grow their businesses in good times and bad. But it is reassuring to have hard data to fortify these beliefs.
Last year, Cox Automotive, surveyed more than 4,400 consumers about the factors that shape their decisions on where to go for maintenance and repairs. (You can see the whole survey here: autonews.com/repairstudy.)
These are the survey's high points.
Service departments have a big role in new-vehicle sales: Nearly half of the respondents said their experience in the service department "greatly influenced" their likelihood of buying another vehicle from the dealership.
Another 36 percent said they were "somewhat influenced" by their service experience with the service department. Bottom line: Make sure your customers are happy when they leave your shop.
Franchised dealers are snagging fewer than one-third of repair orders: The average vehicle makes 2.7 service visits a year. Quick-lube shops, tire stores and independent repair outlets account for about half of these visits; dealers take 30 percent, and the rest go elsewhere — body shops, retail stores and specialist businesses.