Chuck and Trevor Gile of Motorcars Honda are marketing their ultrafast express service system to other new-vehicle dealers. Based on his experience, John Rickards foresees a tough challenge for them.
Rickards is president of Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, which operates 12 dealerships in Pennsylvania. In 2005, Bobby Rahal Honda, in Mechanicsburg, Pa., became what is believed to be the first new-vehicle dealership to install a moving assembly line in its service department — an innovation the Giles adapted for their system.
The idea came to Rickards during his visit to an auto factory. Once Bobby Rahal Honda's assembly line system was up and running, the time service technicians spent on oil changes dropped from about an hour to 30 minutes.
Rahal's express service system worked so well, Rickards says, he was convinced he could sell the setup to other dealers.
He figured they wouldn't balk at the $300,000 price tag for the moving assembly line and detailed plans on how to run it.
But it didn't sell. A Lexus dealership in California committed to buying the system, Rickards says, but abandoned the project when the Great Recession hit. Bobby Rahal Honda closed its assembly line express lane last year to make space for a used-vehicle reconditioning center and body shop.
Rickards says he's impressed with how the Giles have applied his idea and added innovative equipment, such as an oil evacuation machine and express parts locker. But he adds that he thinks Motorcars Honda's $700,000 price tag for its express lane system is too steep.
"I don't think they are going to have too many players at that kind of number," Rickards told Fixed Ops Journal. "The capital expenditure — how many lifts can you buy and install in a traditional building?
"Dealers are pretty savvy people," he says. "Because it is all equipment costs, it's cash, and it is hard to get a loan on that."
Trevor Gile, Motorcars Honda's general manager, rejects the suggestion that his quick service package is too expensive.
"When dealers are looking for ways to retain their customers and expand their service departments, like anything else, you're paying to do that. Rahal's system didn't include most of the additional features we've installed.
"A lot of the costs in the $700,000, you'd be spending anyway," he adds. "We are giving a dealer the opportunity to pull express [service] out of the main shop and make the main shop more efficient."
At the new Bobby Rahal Honda used-vehicle reconditioning center and body shop, fast rotary lifts replaced the moving assembly line. But Rahal's techs still do 30-minute oil changes.
"We put speed lifts in," Rickards says. They raise the car in half the time. So we still employ the same quick service team."
Yet if Rahal were to build a new dealership focused on high-volume service, it would have a moving assembly line, Rickards adds.
"The customer today is demanding a faster turnaround time," he says. "The old days of having them sit around or drop their car off for the day doesn't work anymore."