Dave VandeLinde joined Hyundai Motor America in July. He had served in a variety of positions during a 23-year stint at Toyota, ranging from district parts manager to distribution and production planning manager. Most recently, VandeLinde was the service director for Kuni Lexus of Portland (Ore.).
5 MINUTES WITH ... Dave VandeLinde, director of dealer service and parts process, Hyundai Motor America
On customer and dealer satisfaction
You've got to focus on your own team, the customer and the end user at all times. The other thing common across the industry is that the best process in the world will never make up for poor product. And again, dealer satisfaction is absolutely critical to the success for brands. With both Hyundai and with Toyota, I've been pretty blessed to be around great people, great dealerships and great product.
On connected car technology
The modern currency is really time. Along with that it becomes very customized personal solutions for customers.When you have all the website and connected-car-technology integrations that Hyundai has, it just develops a deeper relationship between the customer and their vehicle. We've got pretty strong data that show that people who have connected cars and keep that subscription active have a much higher retention rate — and a much higher customer-satisfaction rate — than people who don't.
On the technician shortage
It's a twofold issue. We've got several initiatives that I'm working on for next year to really recognize and retain the technicians we do have. Hyundai's lucky in that we have some of the youngest technicians in the industry and that we don't have a lot of technicians who would be retiring soon.
But we've got to keep the ones we have and we have to keep them engaged, and a lot of that is really just recognition and making sure we have the right training programs in place to allow them to use their skills appropriately. But also, as fast as we can hold onto those new technicians, with the advent of autonomous cars, mass-market EVs and car-sharing programs, the technician role is going to change drastically in another 10 years.
On service capacity
Ninety-nine out of 100 dealerships sit dark all evening long, and I don't think it's a matter of brick-and-mortar solutions for our dealerships. I think it's more about just being creative with facility utilization. That plays very well into EVs and autonomous and car-sharing. Working on cars in the evening is going to become a lot more popular.
There are things we can do right now. We can do internals at night. We can do pre-delivery inspections at night. I don't think dealership capacity is the problem. I think having the right number of technicians in the right roles is a huge problem in the industry.
In five or 10 years the technicians we have today will be basically pushing off into two sides of the same room. It's going to be lube guys and lab coats. Everything is going to be very basic mainteance on the vehicle — tires, brakes, wiper blades, lightbulbs, filters — and on the other side it's going to be very highly specialized engineers that are working with software updates, advanced emissions systems and multiplex problems inside the vehicle. We have to help the dealers and technicians make that change.
The Saturday model for most dealerships is light maintenance or express, and I don't disagree with that.
There's a people side of the equation, too, so for a dealership that has a strong after-service-hours model along with Saturdays or even Sundays in some markets, it just expands that capacity.
But if most of what's desired on the weekends is express or light maintenance, then I'm not opposed to the current model that most of our dealers have. As technology or consumers demand more repair work on the weekends or in evenings, then we'll have to adapt to that model.
On the Genesis brand
Genesis is an opportunity for us to rethink the entire customer experience. Valet is only one piece of that. Genesis has created a whole brand around not coming back to the dealership — about being able to have all of your transactions done in the comfort of your own home, or your office, or a local coffee shop where you do the valet process. Genesis is really allowing us to rethink: If it was driven by the consumer, what would an ownership experience look like?
On customer loyalty
The customers are fiercely loyal to the product, and the dealers are certainly very passionate about the product. Hyundai went through their big growth trend when a lot of other manufacturers were really struggling through the recession and part of that was the job-loss insurance and launching America's best warranty, so we're at the position right now where we've got a lot of new SUVs and compact utility vehicles that are coming out so the dealers are really poised for growth.
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