Rick Wegley, an instructor at NCM Institute, part of the dealership consultancy NCM Associates in Kansas City, Mo., says his dealership experience as a fixed operations director made him an advocate of keeping detailing work in-house and making it a profit center instead of outsourcing it.
"Anytime I could eliminate an outside vendor, I did," Wegley says.
Wegley brought paintless dent repair to his dealership by acquiring a franchise that provided tools and training for three technicians. That eliminated an outside expense while creating a profit center for the store, he says.
A service department can save more simply, Wegley says, by keeping close track of detailing materials, from buffing bonnets to cleaning fluids. Holding onto partially used cleaning products instead of discarding them adds to profitability, he says.
"We established a price per car for materials, and when staff stayed below that we rewarded them" monetarily, he recalls. "We spiffed a percentage on the pickup we earned from detail supplies."
Wegley also advocates paying detailers based on their output. A flat-rate system, he says, can slow production as detailers use the entire time allotted for a job instead of finishing and moving on to other vehicles.
Scott and Shannon Schwartz operate Obsessive Compulsive Detailing, a specialty shop in Roseville, Mich., that does detailing work for several Detroit-area dealerships. The couple charges based on the size and condition of the vehicle detailed, Shannon Schwartz says, along with the nature of the work sought by the dealership.
"Most dealer detailing shops allow their employees two to three hours per car," she says. "They are in production mode — the quicker the better for the shop."
But paying detailers a commission for speed doesn't make sense, Scott Schwartz says.
"If a job takes two to three hours, great," he says. "If it takes 10 to 15, so be it. A car in the hands of an employee who is in a hurry is a recipe for disaster."
The Schwartzes typically work alone, although they sometimes hire part-time workers to help with big jobs. Training and experience are essential, Shannon Schwartz says.
"Telling an employee, 'Go clean that car,' doesn't qualify as training," she says. "We don't let employees do paint correction until they have been with us for a while. The collateral damage is just too high if they mess up."
Shannon Schwartz counsels dealers to keep time-consuming jobs such as paint touch-ups in-house.
Her shop could not charge enough for such work to cover its costs, she says.
But that advice could be problematic, says NADA consultant Sheila York, if absenteeism hurts detailing and becomes a problem for deliveries of reconditioned vehicles to the used-car lot.
At most dealerships, York says, "whoever is available to get the vehicle ready is tagged to help, salespeople especially." Such stores, she adds, also "might sublet backup detailing" to meet a delivery schedule.
"Anything to deliver a vehicle," York says.